Indonesians in Desperate Need a Week After Earthquake


Nancy-Amelia Collins

Tens-of-thousands of refugees still are waiting for food, medicine and shelter, as relief efforts are being established in Indian Ocean countries devastated by last week's earthquake and tsunami. Some relief workers and refugees say the aid is taking too long to reach those who are most in need.

International aid is pouring into Banda Aceh, the capital of Indonesia's Aceh province, where up to 100,000 people died in tsunami waves and an earthquake a week ago.

Tens-of-thousands of those who survived the 10-meter waves have been left wandering the streets looking for food, medical aid and shelter.

They have set up camps wherever they can find a small scrap of land. Some are sleeping by the sides of the road, placing scraps of plastic over their heads as shelter from the rain. Others camp out at mosques in this mostly Muslim-populated province.

Talbani Farlin lost his home and his grandmother when the waves struck his home in Banda Aceh. A university professor, he is volunteering for a local Islamic organization which is giving aid to refugees and helping collect the thousands of corpses still littering the streets of the city.

Mr. Talbani says logistical problems are hampering international aid efforts, so his charity group is delivering supplies. Similar local groups around the region also have taken on the task.

"We need help from all international organizations, as well," he said. "Many people, [have] no father, no mothers, no grandfather, no food, no clothes, and the disease and many, many illnesses will be coming."

Chief Warrant Officer Rick Trueblood arrived several-days ago in Banda Aceh with a U.S. military aid team. He says aid is being delivered around the clock, but acknowledges the process is slow.

Warrant Officer Trueblood says workers unloaded 35,000 kilograms of supplies early Sunday, and made food drops by helicopter to areas that cannot be reached by road.

"Right now, we are just now starting to really work together," he added. "And, the host country starts pulling us together, setting up their priorities, where they want the supplies and what support they want from us. Things will get a lot better."

He says the U.S. helicopter crews have permission to pick up refugees found wandering in remote areas.

"I think it has to be understood, it [the relief effort] is very much in its infancy, and it is a situation that nobody has ever really dealt with at this magnitude, this scale," said Steve Cook, of the International Organization for Migration in Indonesia, who says the challenges of delivering aid are many, from logistical support to washed out roads.

Aid workers say, and refugees hope, that the process will speed up in the coming days.

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