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UN Preparing for Long-Term Rehabilitation in Banda Aceh

U.N. officials say all relief organizations, governmental and non-governmental, must work together in the effort to rebuild Aceh.

Joel Boutroue has been in charge of coordinating U.N. and NGO emergency operations in Indonesia since the disastrous tsunami struck south Asia at the end of last year. He says many things must be done during this transitional phase to pave the way for the rehabilitation operation.

Because many government workers were among those killed by the catastrophic tidal waves, Mr. Boutroue says people will have to be found in Aceh and elsewhere in Indonesia who are capable of running the various ministries. Unless that is done, he says areas such as education, health, water and sanitation will not be able to function.

"If you count the education department in Aceh lost I think around 1,300 teachers - dead or missing, well, obviously you have a very weakened department," he said. "The health ministry, the same thing. I do not remember how many hundreds of doctors and nurses were lost. And, also you have a lot of people like middle managers who got killed. So, we have a good chunk of these ministries being eradicated, decapitated."

Mr. Boutroue says schools, health centers, water and sanitation and other systems will need to be rebuilt. Jobs have to be created. People will need help to return to their homes and restart their lives.

He says thousands of tsunami victims already have gone home, while others are living with family or friends. But the U.N. coordinator says many thousands of people have nowhere to go. For them, he says, the Indonesian government has built 38 relocation centers that are capable of housing a total of 65,000 people.

Mr. Boutroue says no one is forced to go to these centers. It is strictly voluntary. He says aid agencies are setting up water and sanitation facilities in these centers. At the same time, he says, they are improving building and services in local communities.

"What we wanted also to do is to increase the capacity of the villages in the vicinity of these centers," he said. "One, to avoid potential friction between these villages and these new relocation centers. And, second, also to enable these villages in the vicinity to take on board an increased case load in terms of children in schools or patients in health centers."

Mr. Boutroue says the United Nations has received 84 percent of the nearly $1 billion appeal it launched in January.