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Tsunami disaster – countries in crisis

UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Tetsuko Kuroyanagi visits tsunami-devastated Aceh Province

© UNICEF/HQ05-0192/Estey
Tetsuko sings with children at an elementary school in Banda Aceh.

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia, 7 February 2005 - UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Tetsuko Kuroyanagi visited tsunami-devastated Aceh Province, Indonesia, on 3-5 February.

The renowned Japanese actress witnessed firsthand the effects of the tsunami on children and families. She saw how UNICEF and its partners are working to keep children in affected areas alive and healthy, and help them and their families cope with the tragedy and get back on their feet.

Upon her arrival, she toured the now accessible streets of Banda Aceh, capital of Aceh Province. She then boarded a UN helicopter, flying over miles of destroyed coastline before arriving in Krueng Tenom.

A young boy named Adi Saputra joined Tetsuko as they walked through the rubble of the devastated community. Nine-year-old Adi lost his father in the tsunami, and his mother is still missing. He is now living with his aunt and grandmother at a relief camp. Adi told Tetsuko that when the tsunami struck, he was playing at home. Adi was fortunate enough to escape: As the 3-meter-high waves ravaged the village, he ran to the hills and remained there for several hours before his grandmother finally found him.

Tetsuko next helped out with a massive measles immunization campaign, which sought to vaccinate 1.3 million children in 13 affected districts of Aceh. Tetsuko administered vitamin A drops to several children, and encouraged and cheered up any who seemed reluctant or fearful as they received their shots. The measles campaign was developed jointly by the Indonesian Health Ministry, UNICEF and partners. 

Tetsuko chatted with students and teachers at elementary school SD 29, which has taken in students and teachers from two other schools, SD 7 and 39 – both of which were flattened in the disaster. The principals from the destroyed schools tearfully described the loss of life among their students and teachers.

© UNICEF/HQ05-0195/Estey
In Aceh Province, Tetsuko plays with children, with recreation material provided by UNICEF.

Tetsuko brought along 30 children’s books, which she had written herself and which had been translated into Indonesian. She gave these books to the students at SD 29 as gifts. She also played games with them and examined drawings showing their experience of the tsunami.

Tetsuko donated toys to two child centres. The centres provide a place where children can come to play and receive counselling if needed, and also maintain a registry of separated children with a view to reuniting them with surviving family members. A team of social workers will monitor their welfare after the children leave the centre.

On her final day, Tetsuko visited Lamkawe, where water purifiers were distributed to lactating mothers and families with small children.

“Water is a huge problem in these refugee camps. We need it badly,” said Cut Arene, a 55-year old woman. She told Tetsuko that she has lost six children, her husband and two grandchildren in the tsunami. “I wake up in the morning in a tent and wonder how I can gather enough energy to cope. All I can do is keep myself busy, try to get clean water, feed my family and take one day at a time.”

“It’s heartbreaking to hear of so many people having lost so many of their families,” says Tetsuko. “But they are finding the strength to get through the day.”

Tetsuko will share her experiences from her visit to Aceh Province with the Japanese public once she returns to Japan. The media team that followed her throughout the trip will document her visit and present it to the Japanese people.




7 February 2005:
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Tetsuko Kuroyanagi endeared herself every child she met during her visit to tsunami-devastated Aceh Province, Indonesia.

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