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UNHCR to airlift emergency shelters for 100,000 people in Aceh

UNHCR to airlift emergency shelters for 100,000 people in Aceh

UNHCR plans to airlift tents from its warehouse in Dubai to the devastated Indonesian province closest to the epicentre of the earthquake. The refugee agency has also contributed US$50,000 to the UN Emergency Relief Plan in Thailand, and continues relief efforts in Sri Lanka.
29 December 2004
Devastated homes on the northern coast of Sri Lanka.

GENEVA, Dec 29 (UNHCR) - Up to 100,000 people in Indonesia's Aceh province who lost their homes in Sunday's devastating earthquake and tidal waves could soon receive emergency shelters as part of the UN refugee agency's regional relief efforts.

Aceh, located on the northern tip of Indonesia's Sumatra island, was closest to the epicentre of the earthquake, which measured 9 on the Richter scale. The Indonesian government says that hundreds of thousands of people have been affected, but this number may rise, considering that communications with some areas of the province are still down.

"Much of Aceh has been levelled and the local population urgently needs shelter and basic living supplies," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers. "UNHCR has a lot of experience in providing emergency shelter and other aid in extremely difficult situations, so we plan to use our expertise to airlift shelter materials as soon as possible to help those who have lost their homes. The numbers and the needs are absolutely staggering."

UNHCR is planning to airlift some 3,500 lightweight tents from its regional warehouse in Dubai. In addition, 20,000 kitchen sets, plastic sheeting for 20,000 families and 100,000 blankets will be airlifted from the refugee agency's central warehouse in Copenhagen, Denmark. The total value for this first phase of assistance is US$1.8 million. The dates of the airlifts have yet to be confirmed.

An additional 14 UNHCR logistical and field staff will be deployed to help with the Aceh airlifts and distribution of relief supplies to the affected population. UNHCR in Indonesia usually deals with the integration of former East Timorese refugees in West Timor and ensuring that asylum seekers have access to a fair and efficient asylum system.

The refugee agency is working closely with the UN country team in Indonesia in a coordinated response to the recent catastrophe, and a senior UNHCR staff member will be part of a UN assessment mission to Aceh set for Thursday.

To the east, thousands of Acehnese refugees now living in Malaysia continue to be desperate for news of their loved ones and have asked to be included in any family tracing mechanism set up.

In Sri Lanka, UNHCR is using its seven offices and 95 staff across the country to continue delivery of emergency relief supplies of plastic sheeting, plastic mats, cooking sets and clothing from its warehouses to the needy population in the war-affected areas and in the south. Supplies are being delivered to Colombo, Hambantota, Mallativu, Trincomalee and Jaffna.

With one of the few in-country stockpiles of relief supplies in Sri Lanka, UNHCR has been able to rapidly get humanitarian aid to some 20,000 people since Monday, filling an important stopgap until international aid began arriving. Now that essential emergency supplies are pouring into the country for distribution, UNHCR will begin replenishing its warehouse supplies.

UNHCR staff delivering non food relief items to victims of the tidal waves near Jaffna, northern Sri Lanka.

In Thailand, UNHCR is making an immediate contribution of US$50,000 to the UN Emergency Relief Fund for the emergency shelter needs of the local population whose homes were washed away by the tidal waves. The fund will be managed by the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs Humanitarian Relief Coordinator, through which initial support from UN agencies for relief operations will be channelled.

On the other side of the Indian Ocean, UNHCR will be part of a UN Country Team from Kenya that will conduct an assessment of the situation in Somalia, where hundreds of villages are said to have been destroyed.