Completion of UNHCR's emergency operation in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, Indonesia

Press Releases, 24 March 2005

The following press release was issued on Thursday, March 24, by UNHCR's regional office in Jakarta, Indonesia.

24 March 2005

JAKARTA Following discussions with a number of government departments, UNHCR is phasing out its emergency relief operations in Indonesia's Aceh province as work in the tsunami-devastated region shifts to long-term reconstruction.

UNHCR's preparations for withdrawal from the huge international relief effort in Aceh began on March 12 and coincided with the government's announced plans for the transition to long-term rebuilding work. UNHCR expects to have completed the handover of its operations and to have phased out its presence in Aceh where there are now hundreds of international aid agencies by the end of 25 March.

With a mandate for protecting refugees fleeing violence and persecution, UNHCR does not normally respond to natural disasters and its programme in Aceh was unprecedented. Given the enormity of the tsunami crisis, it was asked to join the United Nations emergency response effort and quickly mounted a programme to help provide shelter and other assistance to some 100,000 people along Aceh's devastated west coast. It deployed mobile teams to temporary field locations in Medan, Banda Aceh, Meulaboh, Calang and Lamno. Swiss helicopters and sea transport provided by the Indonesian Army were used to transport lightweight tents, plastic sheeting, jerry cans, kitchen sets, blankets and locally produced plastic sleeping mats. UNHCR also developed a strategy to support early return and the provision of permanent housing units to the affected population in some of the smaller coastal communities.

UNHCR understands the government's desire to review and rationalise the huge humanitarian effort in Aceh as it now prepares for the next important stage long-term reconstruction. UNHCR remains ready to provide support in that stage if requested to do so by the government.

UNHCR has already closed three offices (Lamno, Calang and Meulaboh) on the west coast and arranged for the transfer of supplies and assets and the dismantling of telecommunications and other equipment. Staff will depart Banda Aceh by the end of this week.

At the request of the UN Country Team, UNHCR in January presented a six-month, $60-million operational plan for Aceh, focusing primarily on shelter needs. About $33 million of the amount raised remains available, while $7 million has already been spent. If UNHCR is not requested to take part in the reconstruction phase, it will be consulting with its donors on the use of the unspent funds. Options could include reimbursement to donors or transfer to other agreed agencies. UNHCR is currently in the process of discussing these and other options with its donors.

UNHCR is proud to have been a part of the U.N. response and to have been able to work alongside the people of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam. It is also grateful to have had the opportunity to contribute so effectively to the Indonesian government's overall response.

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One Year On: Rebuilding Aceh

In the aftermath of the devastating 26 December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, UNHCR mounted a massive relief operation for some 100,000 survivors on the severely battered west coast of Indonesia's Aceh province.

After the initial three-month emergency relief phase was over, UNHCR withdrew from Aceh. However, in June 2005, after the Indonesian government had assessed the needs for the reconstruction and rehabilitation phase, UNHCR returned to assist in rebuilding the west coast communities. All the survivors' main infrastructural needs – such as schools, community centres, places of worship and family homes – have been included in the holistic reconstruction effort, and efforts have been made to ensure they are all designed to suit the Acehnese way of life. Rebuilding is already underway in the villages of Kreung Sabee and in Calang.

UNHCR has also been helping the recovery effort on Nias Island, off the coast of Sumatra, which was struck by an 8.7 magnitude earthquake on 28 March.

One Year On: Rebuilding Aceh