Many areas in Aceh still critical as tsunami anniversary approaches

Many areas in Aceh still critical as tsunami anniversary approaches


With the first anniversary of the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami fast approaching, FAO warned today that many areas on the west coast of Aceh, Indonesia, were still in a critical condition. “Half a million people in Indonesia are still living in temporary shelter. Entire communities were destroyed,” according to Alex Jones, FAO’s post-tsunami operations coordinator. There was a danger that international attention and donor support would come to an end before the recovery was complete, he said. “Sustainable recovery requires a five to ten year effort.”

Global disaster fund

FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said: “The donor response to the tsunami disaster was huge, but there were still delays in getting help to the people who needed it most. What the world needs is a standby global disaster fund that would make immediate intervention possible.”

FAO has been active in all the tsunami-affected countries since the disaster of December 26, 2004, playing a lead role in advising governments on rehabilitation in the fisheries and agriculture sectors as well as helping repair and replace lost and damaged boats and equipment and restoring damaged farmland. FAO has also built partnerships with civil society organizations and helps coordinating reconstruction activities.

Direct assistance

In Indonesia, to date more than 2 000 members of the fishing and fish-processing communities and more than 12 000 farmers have resumed productive activities as a direct result of FAO assistance. An additional 30 000 farmers are currently receiving support from FAO that will allow them to resume self-sustaining and income-generating activities.

Plans have been developed to help around 1,000 fish farmers to re-establish aquaculture operations, and distribute several hundred heads of cattle to livestock farmers early in 2006.

FAO assistance has taken the form of training boat-builders, boat repairs, supplying boat engines, fishing nets, fish processing equipment, seeds, fertilizer and farm tools, motorized cultivators, cash-for-work to clear debris from farm land, advice on dealing with salt water damage, recommending sustainable timber-use policies, and planning coastal management.

It has been a similar picture in Sri Lanka, where some 14 300 people have benefited from FAO’s activities in the fisheries sector, and another 13 000 in agriculture. In the Maldives, help has been given to boat-building and repair and replacing lost fishing gear, with some 22 680 people benefiting.

Overall message positive

“Reconstruction takes a lot of time, not just money, and it can only go as fast as the local communities are willing and able to go,” Jones said. “Our role is supportive. We’re not there to rebuild their country for them and then hand it over. Reconstruction has to be community-led, especially if you’re going to get it right.”

Summing up the relief effort one year on, Jones said: “The overall message is a positive one. A large amount of attention, funding and adequate human resources to address the needs of these countries has resulted in exceptional performance to date.”

He pointed out that according to a recent joint FAO/WFP assessment, “markets are functioning relatively well, in spite of the damage to economic infrastructure. Rice yields in many areas are back to pre-tsunami levels, and although not all land has been brought back into cultivation, Aceh is still producing a rice surplus, with the net surplus going to other regions of the country.” But he warned: “Some areas, like the west coast of Aceh, will be a disaster zone for years to come.”

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