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Indonesia's Tsunami-Ravaged Aceh Province Struggles to Rebuild

  • Nancy-Amelia Collins

Indonesia's devastated Aceh province is still struggling to rebuild two years after the December 26, 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami swept across two continents killing some 230,000 people. VOA's Nancy-Amelia Collins recently visited the provincial capital Banda Aceh, in the area worst hit by the disaster, and has this report.

It has been two years since a 9.0 magnitude earthquake triggered a tsunami that battered Indonesia's Aceh province. The giant wave killed nearly 170,000 people here and destroyed over 800 kilometers of coastline and most of the region's infrastructure.

Since then, the Achenese have been struggling to rebuild their homes and their lives with the help of an unprecedented outpouring of aid from the international community, totaling nearly $6 billion.

But two years after the disaster, not even half of the estimated 128,000 homes needed to house the survivors have been built.

And many of those fortunate enough to live in the 50,000 to 60,000 homes constructed since late 2005 say the housing is of poor quality and built with substandard materials.

Eric Morris, the United Nations recovery coordinator for Aceh, acknowledges big mistakes have been made in the province's reconstruction effort.

"My own sense at this time is that in the push to get the numbers and to get a significant volume going perhaps we've been less attentive than we should have been to issues of quality,… and perhaps we need to be more attentive to issues of equity," he said.

And because the rebuilding of homes has been so slow, many people here still live in temporary barracks or tents that lack even basic sanitation.

Iskandar, a 41-year-old fisherman, lost his wife and two of his three children when the tsunami hit Lampuuk, located on Aceh's now devastated west coast.

He is homeless, and that fact has forced him to place his only remaining child with relatives. Iskandar sleeps on his boat at the seashore by night, and fishes for his livelihood by day.

He says he does not expect much from the international aid organizations, which he thinks are only after power and money and not truly concerned with the welfare of the Acehnese people.

The U.N.'s Morris says better efforts must be made to ensure the housing meets acceptable standards.

"I think the focus must shift to quality assurance, quality control," he said.

And for people like the homeless Iskandar, a properly built home cannot come soon enough.