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Indonesia Extends Deadline for Aid Agencies Working in Tsumani-Hit Aceh Province

Nancy-Amelia Collins

The Indonesian government says it needs continued foreign help to rebuild its tsunami-devastated Aceh province. Relief agencies will be allowed to stay in Aceh another two months.

In a move welcomed by foreign aid groups, the Indonesian government has extended by two months a deadline allowing aid agencies to work in the tsunami-affected province of Aceh.

Michael Elmquist, the United Nations' humanitarian coordinator in Indonesia, says the 60-day extension will allow aid groups to carry on with the reconstruction effort.

"There's an enormous amount of work to be done," he said. "Much of it will be redirected towards reconstruction now, but there is still a very large number of people who have been displaced and lost their livelihood who need humanitarian assistance, food and water and sanitation."

Initially the Indonesian government thought three months would be enough time for the province to recover from the disaster. But with March 26 approaching, the government now says it needs more time to rebuild and continued foreign aid.

More than 230,000 people died or remain missing in Aceh following the December 26 tsunami, which destroyed much of the province's infrastructure and left hundreds-of-thousands homeless.

Foreigners had been banned from Aceh before the disaster, due to a long-running separatist conflict. The government temporarily lifted the ban following the tsunami.

The United Nations' Mr. Elmquist says aid groups must be allowed full access to those who need help.

"And that kind of assistance also has to continue, even though we are in the reconstruction phase now," he said. "We can't do that without access, of course, both for the U.N. agencies, and for the non-governmental organizations that work as our implementing partners. So, we are delighted that the deadline has been extended."

There are more than 150 aid groups operating in Aceh in cooperation with the Indonesian government.

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