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Tsunami update

The response to the Asian tsunami of 26 December 2004 is the largest and most logistically complex operation ever undertaken by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. As of 1 November, the combined total budget is expected to exceed US$ 2.2 billion. More than 90 National Societies have been involved in raising funds and many are active on site. Tens of thousands of Red Cross and Red Crescent workers and volunteers have been deployed throughout the region.

The scope of programmes under way is correspondingly wide, ranging from vaccinations against the wild polio virus in Indonesia, to the establishment of a National Society in the Maldives and psychosocial support to tsunami victims in southern Thailand and logistics training in East Africa.

Inhabitants of Gugup are able to choose from a variety of house designs.
©Virgil Grandfield / International Federation

Shelter is the single overriding issue as the operation moves out of the initial relief phase and towards rehabilitation and reconstruction. New homes are already being built in the Maldives and Sri Lanka but construction is a more complex issue in the worst-affected country, Indonesia. The Indonesian government has made the allocation of housing plots and decisions over land rights a priority but the massive volume of debris and the destruction of land registry records in the tsunami make this a time-consuming process. The dramatically changed coastline also has made an impact. In some cases, land has become sea and vice versa, delaying the determination of land ownership. In the meantime, the onset of the rainy season means that temporary accommodation must be improved, especially for the approximately 67,000 Indonesian tsunami victims currently living in tents.

International Federation

• Relief distribution has reached over 543,000 people. Distributions include: 19,307 family kits; 68,488 baby kits; 306,445 hygiene kits; 17,738 kitchen sets; 59,049 cooking stoves; 220,327 bed sheets; 187,578 blankets; 158,848 jerrycans; 149,316 mosquito nets; 122,657 tarpaulins and 14,464 tents.
• The tent replacement programme is well under way, with 27,000 tents now in the distribution pipeline. Registration records have been received which account for the distribution of the first 9,000 tents in Aceh Besar, Pidie and Teunom.
• A massive logistics operation to support the transitional shelter programme is taking shape. Fifty landing points have been identified along Aceh’s western shore for marine landing crafts to deliver housing kits. International Federation teams will then transport the shelter materials to identified construction sites.
• Hygiene and sanitation training and community-based first-aid programmes of Indonesian Red Cross Society (PMI) are being expanded to accommodate the movement of displaced people from tent and barrack camps to temporary shelters.
• The International Federation and the PMI have identified 43 locations for rehabilitation and reconstruction of health centres in Aceh Barat district. When complete, they will serve approximately 100,000 people.
• One million litres of clean water a day are being provided to 113,000 beneficiaries in towns, villages and in 53 temporary living centres and 24 tent camps.
• In Teunom, 350 household wells have been cleaned and water supply systems have been repaired in two towns on Simeulue island. The Teunom and Simeulue activities have added 8,000 people to the total number of beneficiaries now drinking safe water provided through PMI/International Federation resources.
• A construction support base has been established in the district capital of Calang, and stocks of building materials, earth-moving machines and construction tools have been pre-positioned there.
• The PMI and the International Federation are involved in a governmental and multi-agency assessment mission to determine requirements and capacities for a tsunami early warning system.


Sri Lanka
• The International Federation has begun constructing 2,225 houses on 23 sites; 150 homes have been completed by member National Societies. This is part of a Movement pledge to construct a total of up to 15,000 houses for 75,000 people.
• The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is discussing involvement in a government scheme to help owners of destroyed or partially damaged houses outside the buffer zone. (The government of Sri Lanka has imposed buffer zones of 100 metres from the coastline in the south and 200 metres in the north and east, with no settlement, reconstruction or new development allowed within the zones.) The project seeks support from non-governmental and international organizations to provide financial support to the value of 250,000 Sri Lankan rupees (US$ 2,500) as a supplement to the 250,000 rupees already provided for reconstruction by the government. Reconstruction will be monitored to ensure that funds are used solely for construction purposes.
• A memorandum of understanding worth US$ 100 million, signed with the government, allocates projects to reconstruct and renovate water supply facilities over the next seven years in at least four districts.
• Two nursing schools will be constructed in Galle and Ampara.

• In addition to ongoing relief measures on all the tsunami-affected islands; a public meeting was held on 28 September concerning the formation of a National Society.
• Construction of 106 homes is underway on Guraidhoo, Kudahuvadhoo and Maafushi islands while construction of another 600 on Dhavaafaru Island will begin soon.
• Some 5,550 rainwater harvesting kits and tanks for over 33,000 people — over one-third of the total to be distributed throughout the Maldives — have now been delivered to 21 islands. Installation is being carried out by the affected families.

• Assessments were conducted on psychosocial needs in Phang Nga and Phuket in preparation for health projects to provide psychological support.

East Africa
• A regional logistics preparedness and response training workshop was held in Nairobi in August 2005 and attended by logisticians from 12 National Societies in the region. Its aim was to equip the logisticians with the skills to handle large-scale natural disasters effectively.


In addition to its regular activities of detention visits, protection and promotion of international humanitarian law, the ICRC has been working with the National Societies in the region.

• Cleaning some 1,000 wells, thus providing returning village residents with a reliable source of clean water.
• Construction and repair of village sanitation facilities.
• Resumption of the Family Links programme in Aceh, which has already brought 3,850 families in touch with relatives as well as reuniting 48 unaccompanied children with their families.

Sri Lanka
• Providing hospitals with medical supplies.
• Supporting a Sri Lanka Red Crescent Society (SLRCS) mobile health team in Mutur and Eachchilampattai.
• Continued support of SLRCS activities to reunite families.
• Providing medical services and maternity care in Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi (these programmes were taken over by the German Red Cross in July).
• Boosting income-generation activities in 120 vulnerable inland and coastal communities.
• Providing 5,000 specialized nets to fishermen.
• Providing 4,000 tents and 13,700 tarpaulins as well as water and sanitation facilities for 25,000 people living in temporary accommodation.
• Household kits for welfare centres and camps.
• Restoring the water supply in seven hospitals in the north-east and cleaning more than 3,000 contaminated wells.
• Supporting the National Water Supply and Drainage Board.
• Providing equipment and medical supplies to primary health-care facilities.

Life in a once-and-future village

I n March 2005, when a British and Indonesian Red Cross Societies and International Federation tsunami-recovery team landed on a debrisstrewn beach on Pulau Aceh island, the only sign of human life was a scattering of tents.

The team carried the first loads of supplies around a bay-side cliff to set up a base camp on the shattered and sheared foundations of what was once the village of Gugup on this small island north-west of Banda Aceh, Indonesia.

Today, the sun reflects off the zinc roofs of a government-built wooden barrack camp. Under an awning, two shy women sit grinding coconut meat out of dark husks. Another washes clothes with spring water piped to the village from an American Red Cross waterworks project on the jungle-covered mountain behind the village. A man single-mindedly planes a length of wood to build furniture.

A tsunami orphan, who in March caught only bite-sized bay fish with a pole given him by British Red Cross (BRCS), is preparing two large jackfish with lime and salt for a lunchtime barbecue.

At one end of the camp, greasy doughnuts and thick, sweet Acehnese coffee are served in a small, rough-hewn café built by a ginger farmer as part of a BRCS livelihoods contract. He had always dreamt of owning a café.

Around the café and barracks, wooden signs hand-painted with family names mark once-and-future homesteads. The frame of a new goat shack, another livelihoods project, stands on a hillock. Villagers joke that the goat shack is already nicer than houses built on another island. Things are moving more slowly here, they say, but the houses will be better. “I want a permanent home,” says a man in the café. “One I can give to my children and grandchildren.”

After the lunch of barbecued jackfish, a BRCS technical adviser and engineer and PMI volunteers sit with 50 families in the community centre to discuss the features of three model houses. A new set of building codes meant new designs were needed.

The recovery team also discusses the future. Timber from renewable forests is being imported. Development specialists arrive in two weeks to hold construction workshops. The American Red Cross gravity-fed drinking water system will be finished within the week.

PMI volunteers will be going door-to-door in the camp to ask each family what model of house they prefer. They will also ask if the family wishes to work on the homes themselves or collectively with the community, or if they prefer to hire contractors. The meeting ends with a group of men performing a prayer-song dance.

Life in Gugup is slowly returning to normal.

Virgil Grandfield
Virgil Grandfield is International Federation information delegate in Banda Aceh.


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