At a glance: Indonesia

After Aceh floods, relief efforts help families cope with effects of ‘tsunami from the river’

UNICEF Image: Indonesia: Flood relief efforts
© UNICEF Indonesia/2007
A family displaced by flooding finds temporary shelter in a UNICEF-supplied tent near the banks of the Tamiang River in southeastern Aceh Province, Indonesia.

By Bronwyn Curran

TAMIANG DISTRICT, Indonesia, 12 January 2007 – After the Tamiang River burst its banks late last month, Rachwaty and her four children spent three days and nights on the roof of a mosque while their village was submerged in floodwaters up to three metres high.

The flood, which occurred after a prolonged deluge, killed around 70 people and affected some 450,000 residents across five districts. Relief workers have compared the damage to that caused by the 2004 tsunami.

“In this area there is normally seasonal flooding. But this flood has been particularly devastating and widespread. The aftermath looked just like the tsunami. The irony is that this area was not affected by the tsunami two years ago,” said Water and Sanitation Officer Tai Ring Teh, who has been leading UNICEF’s Emergency Response Team.

Approximately 90 per cent of the buildings in southeast Aceh were damaged by the flood. In Tamiang, the worst-hit district, an estimated 200,000 residents are suffering from lost livestock, destroyed crops and severed supplies of safe water.

UNICEF Image: Indonesia: Flood relief efforts
© UNICEF Indonesia/2007
A home on the Tamiang River in Indonesia's Aceh Province, destroyed by floodwaters up to three metres high in late December.

Ensuring the water supply

 “Everything is gone. There’s nothing left, no crops,” said Rachwaty’s neighbour Noor Basty, whose husband is a farmer.

In addition to destroying lives and property, the floodwaters left one to two metres of mud inside existing wells. Now, some 54,000 wells need to be properly cleaned and disinfected before they can be used again.

“Before the flood we got our water from the river and our wells. But now the wells are filled with muddy water which we can only use for washing and bathing,” said Rachwaty.

The existing water supply network is not wide enough to reach all of the flooded areas, so UNICEF is installing 74 water bladders at key points in affected villages, focusing on health centres and camps for displaced persons.

UNICEF Image: Indonesia: Flood relief efforts
© UNICEF Indonesia/2007
Children from flood-affected families play in the UNICEF provided temporary Children's Centre in Kuala Simpang, the main city in southeastern Aceh's Tamiang district.

Shelter and immunization

In Kuala Simpang, UNICEF issued 600 family-sized tents to help accommodate people whose homes were damaged or destroyed. UNICEF has also set up a Children's Centre and provided recreation kits, sports equipment, toys and other supplies.

There is now a possibility of outbreaks of malaria and diarrhoea. Several cases of malaria and one child fatality from dehydration have already been reported.

With 80 per cent of sub-district health centres damaged beyond use and 77,000 people living in temporary shelters, UNICEF plans to launch a mass measles immunization campaign in late January for children under the age of five. 


 

 

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