|Indonesia’s tsunami recovery comes with complications|
Dec. 19, 2005
A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*
A year after the tsunami wiped out whole parts of the Aceh Province of Indonesia, the United Methodist Committee on Relief is helping people rebuild their homes, their communities and their livelihoods.
But the relief and recovery work has been complicated, according to the Rev. Paul Dirdak, UMCOR’s chief executive.
“The disaster destroyed a very thin strip of property in a rural province where people lived on the beach but a very wide path in one coastal city,” he said.
In the rural area, it has not been so hard to determine property ownership for rebuilding purposes, Dirdak explained. But in a city such as Banda Aceh, where “such a wide range of pieces of property were destroyed,” along with property records, the task has been formidable.
“All the NGOS (nongovernmental organizations) are having a very hard time proving their beneficiaries’ right to build a house in a particular place,” he said.
Other complicating factors include a strain on resources for building materials, such as lumber; the large number of outside organizations helping with recovery, slowing down the permit process; and the ongoing political conflict, which has been assisted by a peace accord in August.
In a Dec. 14 press release, Oxfam International said that providing shelter for those displaced by the tsunami has been its biggest challenge. Oxfam received $278 million in donations for its tsunami aid effort and will have spent around $127 million by the end of the year.
Oxfam’s progress in Aceh, for example, has been hampered by the fact that some land is still under water; by the government’s slowness to allocate land for rebuilding and to clarify coastal buffer zones; and by limited access to devastated areas due to lack of infrastructure. The uneven progress means some people already live in permanent houses while others remain in tents.
On the northeastern coast of Sumatra, 200 kilometers south of Banda Aceh, UMCOR Indonesia has a program called Integrated Rehabilitation for Tsunami Affected Communities. The project location is the Bireuen district, and UMCOR is coordinating its work with the local government and other NGOs in the area.
The goal of the project, currently estimated at a cost of just more than $5 million, “is to revitalize tsunami-affected communities in Bireuen by empowering community members to re-establish their homes and livelihoods,” according to UMCOR.
Objectives include providing long-term shelter solutions for up to 521 families in Bireuen through reconstruction of destroyed homes or repair of damaged homes; facilitating access to basic public services through four small-scale infrastructure projects; and helping generate a sustainable income for a minimum of 250 entrepreneurs in Bireuen who lost their livelihoods because of the tsunami.
One livelihood project consists of a two-week training of up to 100 workers in the basics of construction. The training includes the construction of public toilets in villages where UMCOR Indonesia is working. After the training, the workers receive toolkits and will be placed with construction companies to further enhance their skills.
In total, 432 shelters or homes will be built and 89 homes repaired in the villages of Kuala Raja, Cot Batee, Matang Teungoh, Pineung Siri Bee and Tanjong Baro. Ten demonstration homes were finished this fall, providing models to help the communities select what best fits their needs.
One of those demonstration homes is occupied by Yusuf, a 55-year-old fisherman, his wife, and their three children, ages 22, 19 and 12. After losing their home in the tsunami, the family had been living in government-constructed barracks.
According to the November progress report from UMCOR-Indonesia, the construction process has been slowed as they wait for government officials responsible for land registration to sign off on letters that would certify beneficiary families as legal owners of the plot of land where the house would be built.
However, the report said, 50 houses are under construction and work is expected to begin in December on another 372 structures.
Optimism in Banda Aceh
For Banda Aceh itself, UMCOR is developing a number of projects for approval by its directors at their April board meeting, according to Dirdak.
Architects also are drawing up plans for a new church building and attached apartment block for the Methodist Church in Banda Aceh. Although no cost estimate has been presented yet, Dirdak said, the United Methodist Church’s Indiana Area already has raised money for construction.
The Rev. Henry Leono, who grew up in Banda Aceh but now serves as pastor of a New Jersey church, reported to United Methodist News Service that the school run by the Banda Aceh Methodist Church has been renovated and classes are in session.
Attendance at the church’s Sunday worship has doubled to about 200, and nightly prayer meetings, begun six or seven months ago, are continuing, said Leono, who spoke Dec. 13 with his sister Ida, in Banda Aceh.
His sister’s jewelry store is doing well, he said, because jewelry is considered to be a good investment by Indonesians. But other businesses are doing well too, especially construction-related enterprises and restaurants.
“My sense from her is that people are more optimistic about their future,” he said.
The Rev. David Wu, an executive with the Board of Global Ministries and native of Indonesia, said many people who had been displaced by the tsunami are returning to Banda Aceh “because there’s so much work to do there.”
He believes the people of Sumatra “are quite resilient. They just move on.”
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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