Monday, January 03, 2005

Crisis in Aceh ~ Relief Operation for Tsunami Victims in Aceh Hampered by the State

Six days after the tsunami waves swept the coast of the Indonesian province of Aceh and part of North Sumatra, causing the loss of at least 80,000 lives, the victims are still lacking access to relief supposedly distributed by the state apparatus. The western coast of Aceh that was hit the hardest, such as the city of Meulaboh where only one-fifth of its total population of 50,000 is expected to survive, is still relatively unreachable. The government is so slow in distributing relief that tons of donation piles up at the airports of Jakarta; of Medan, the capital of North Sumatra; and of Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh. The authority had decided to no longer accept aid donation from the people in the form of clothing, food, equipment and medicine. Meanwhile, government procedures hamper international aid to reach Aceh, partly due to the civil emergency status in Aceh that has isolated the province from the international community. Aceh suffered from decades of conflicts with the central government and since May 2003 it has again become target of the Indonesian military operation that caused hundreds of civilian casualties.

The feared disease outbreak that, according to the WHO, could double the loss of lives is more and more threatening as victims started to get infested with cholera, diarrhea, and skin diseases due to the lack of access to clean water, sanitation, food and medicine. Thousands of human bodies can be found on every corner of Banda Aceh while there is not enough human resource and equipment to bury them; similar or worse situations obviously can be found on the western coast of Aceh. The bodies are decaying in open air, contaminating water and air, and increasing the risk of disease outbreak. Relief workers from the government, urgently needed to evacuate victims and bury the bodies, take very long time to get to the areas of disaster due to the lack of means of transportation and the destruction of communication infrastructure. The police and army personnel, that are equipped with better equipment and vehicles, are reportedly incapable to perform most of the relief works.

The enthusiasm of people in other parts of the country to help Aceh is very high. Aid-collecting posts (posko) or crisis centres are mushrooming throughout Indonesia and many people are drafting as volunteers. Civilian organizations in and outside Aceh that had managed to send their volunteer to the disaster areas are taking more role than the state apparatus is in helping the victims. They erected tents and gave sanitation; distributed food, clothing and medicine; buried bodies and evacuated victims. However, the number of volunteers, relief workers, experts and medics are still far from sufficient.

At the same time, civilian volunteers have to face many obstacles to perform relief works in Aceh. The airplane ticket price to Aceh from Jakarta or from Medan suddenly became as high as threefold the normal price as airline companies are drawing profit from the disaster. Neither has the government given any accommodation nor help for the volunteers. Reportedly, in some disaster areas that are still isolated and where information centers do not yet exist, the state apparatus charged some fees to volunteers. To overcome such obstacles some civilian organization consolidated and formed the Civil Society Coalition for the Victims of Earthquake and Tsunami, to mobilize relief and volunteers and to monitor the flow of aid to Aceh. It is also important to supervise the relief operation, as there have been a lot of cases in the past when relief or humanitarian fund was corrupted. The coalition has also sent as many as 100 volunteers to Aceh.

The Solidarity of People Movement for Aceh (SEGERA) - in itself a coalition that struggle for the democratic rights of the Aceh people, formed since 2001, consisted of labour unions, student organizations, acehnese pro-democracy organizations and some political parties - is among the 24 organizations that joined the coalition. Until the time of the writing, SEGERA have sent 15 volunteers from Jakarta to disaster areas in Aceh. Almost all of them are acehnese democratic activists outside Aceh, whose families become victims or are still missing. More volunteers are being prepared to follow them soon. SEGERA has set up aid-collecting posts (posko) or crisis centers in Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Bandung and Medan; and aid-distribution posts in two cities in Aceh, Banda Aceh and Meulaboh. As a response to the sluggish relief operation, SEGERA urges that:

  1. The government revokes the status of civil emergency to open access to Aceh for local and international aid and relief operation.

  • The state apparatus and the military give more access and facilities to both national and international civilian organizations to allow them more involvement in the relief operation.

    1. The government immediately conduct a reconstruction and rebuild the infrastructure destroyed by the disaster.

    January 1st, 2005

    Solidaritas Gerakan Rakyat untuk Aceh - Solidarity of People Movement for Aceh (SEGERA)

    Solidarity fund for Aceh can be transferred to the account set up by SEGERA:
    Bank International Indonesia
    Name: Yuliana Ronauli MMP
    BSA/Swift Code: 281013
    Account No: 1-121-162097

    Immediate use of the fund would be to send volunteers to areas of disaster in Aceh, to help aceh-based volunteers and to evacuate victims. Volunteers are urgently needed to do relief work, to evacuate victims, to restore healthy environment so that the spread of disease can be stopped as much as possible, as well as to monitor the distribution of aid to ensure that the victims would receive it.

    SEGERA (Solidaritas Gerakan Rakyat untuk Aceh)
    Jl. Tebet Barat Dalam VIII L no 2
    Jakarta Selatan - Indonesia
    Phone: 62-21-8309061

    SEGERA activists in Aceh who survived the disaster:
    1. Ahyar (FPDRA) - his entire family in Meulaboh is still missing
    2. Ajes (FPDRA)
    3. Hendra (SMUR) - his entire family in Ulee Lee is still missing
    4. Jasman (FPDRA)
    5. Edi S (FPDRA)
    6. Yuli Rais (Chairman of SEFA)
    7. Ratna (ORPAD)
    8. Farhan (FPDRA)
    9. Kokot (SEFA)
    10. Hospi (SEFA)
    11. Fakri (SEFA)
    12. Iksan (SEFA)
    13. Adin (SEFA)
    14. Yusmadi (SEFA)
    15. Amri (SSG) - his wife and children are missing
    16. Davit (SMUR)

    SEGERA activists in Aceh whose whereabouts are unknown and whose village or house were destroyed by the disaster:
    1. Muslim (FPDRA)
    2. Kurnia (SMUR)
    3. Tofik Hidayat (SEFA)
    4. Ira Welya (ORPAD)
    5. Cut Agustina (ORPAD) - her entire family in Meulaboh is still missing
    6. Nursida M (FPDRA) - her entire family in Meulaboh is still missing

    FPDRA: Front Perlawanan Demokratik Rakyat Aceh - Acehnese People Democratic Struggle Front
    ORPAD: Organisasi Perempuan Aceh Demokratik - Womens Organization for Democracy in Aceh
    SEFA: Save Emergency For Aceh
    SSG: Sue Support Group
    SMUR : Solidaritas Mahasiswa Untuk Rakyat - Student's Solidarity for the People

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