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
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.
• 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
• 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
• 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.
• 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
• 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
• 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
• 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.
• 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
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
• 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
• 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
• Providing equipment and medical supplies to primary
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
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
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 is International Federation information
delegate in Banda Aceh.