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Tsunami response update: Indonesia

Briefing notes

Tsunami response update: Indonesia

25 January 2005

It's now almost a month since the tsunami hit, and UNHCR's shelter relief efforts are now in full swing on the west coast of the Indonesian province of Aceh with the Super Puma helicopters provided by the Swiss government flying in relief supplies on a daily basis to Meulaboh, one of our main operating centres, and into other sites.

UNHCR is now operational in three locations - Meulaboh, Calang and Lamno. Stocks have been helicoptered to Calang (4.5 metric tons), and Lamno (8.5 metric tons) for distribution in the coming days. UNHCR will partner with CARE and MSF on distribution of relief items in small quantities in Meulaboh and around Banda Aceh.

While the rescue and emergency relief operations are quickly coming to a close, the struggle to build a new life in devastated communities remains a daunting task. Many remote and isolated areas remain inaccessible for a host of reasons, such as damaged roads. Shelter remains a critical need. Our aim is to get people back into their own homes as rapidly as possible. Over the past week, the Indonesian authorities and the local people have done a tremendous job in putting communities back on the road to normalcy. Government offices and schools have reopened. The displaced people who had occupied these facilities have found accommodation either in camps, new relocation sites, or have gone back to their homes. Shops are opening. There has been 24-hour electricity in Meulaboh for the past four days.

We remain concerned however, that conditions in the camps for displaced people and the temporary relocation centres remain below international standards. The Indonesian authorities are responding to our recommendations on measures to bring the accommodation for the displaced up to international standards UNHCR, in conjunction with other partners, is setting up a first camp in Meulaboh city which will be run by the civilian government. The camp, scheduled to open in the next couple of days, will have around 170 UNHCR family-sized tents, offering shelter to some 1,000 displaced people. Fifty tents have been put up so far. Oxfam is constructing latrines and water facilities at the camp site. The Indonesian authorities say that they expect the occupants to stay in the camps for up to six months to a year. Authorities say there are 60,000 tsunami victims in Meulaboh area, most of them living with host families. An increasing number are going back to their homes to clear the debris and scavenge for materials with which to rebuild their houses. The plastic sheeting we are providing is a vital component for the rebuilding and reconstruction effort.

Since the weekend, the refugee agency has been distributing plastic sheeting, blankets and kitchen sets so the displaced can make rapid progress in rebuilding their homes.