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Tsunami disaster – countries in crisis

From tanks to pipes: Safe water for tsunami-affected residents of Indonesia

© UNICEF HQ06-1994/Estey
Puput, 10, helps her mother with washing at a temporary camp for people displaced by the 2004 tsunami in Banda Aceh, Indonesia.

By Edith Johnson

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia, December 2006 – Two years ago, ten-year-old Puput lost her father and all her belongings when the tsunami devastated her family’s seaside village. Now, she and her mother Nurasiah are living in a temporary camp outside Banda Aceh, looking forward to the day when they will have their own home again.

“We first lived in the Ulee Kareng camp, which was really difficult because there was no clean water,” said Nurasiah. “If we wanted to wash we had to ask neighbours. But things are getting better since we moved.”

The safe water at their new camp is supplied by a UNICEF-supported treatment plant, which was built following the tsunami. The water is transported by trucks to meet the needs of another 30,000 people like Puput and her mother who are living in temporary shelters. The plant also supplies potable water to more than 7,000 residents of Banda Aceh.

© UNICEF HQ06-1990/Estey
Workers fill up tankers at a UNICEF-supported water-treatment plant in Banda Aceh. The plant serves more than 30,000 people, most of them still living in temporary camps because of the tsunami.

Starting from scratch

Today, UNICEF continues to help rehabilitate treatment plants and build water systems in tsunami-stricken areas of rural Indonesia.

“It’s rare that, so late after a disaster, we are still trucking in water,” said UNICEF Water and Sanitation Project Officer Dara Johnston. “Usually we can repair damaged sections, while the basic system remains intact. However, here in Aceh the tsunami ripped out the entire water delivery infrastructure. All the pipes are simply gone. We had to start from scratch.”

People who are still displaced as a result of the tsunami depend on a steady supply of safe water to provide for their daily needs. To keep up with the demand, UNICEF has been helping to drill wells, restore natural springs and bring clean water directly to schools.

“We have already gone to 105 existing schools and set them up with good wells and improved toilet facilities. We have 100 more upgrades in the works,” said Mr. Johnston.

© UNICEF HQ06-1998/Estey
At a camp for displaced people in Banda Aceh, a child receives a bath using safe water supplied by a UNICEF-supported treatment plant.

‘Life will get better’

Puput and her mother are eager to move back to their village, but not before a reliable source of water is put into place.

“We are extending the piping to the permanent housing,” said Mr. Johnston. “Across Aceh, there are quite a few housing developments that lack a good water source. People aren’t willing to move into those new houses, because they can’t keep their family healthy.”

Every day, Puput enjoys spending free time with friends at a UNICEF-supported children’s centre. The centre provides many healthy activities, of which her mother wholeheartedly approves.

“Whatever she wants to do, I encourage her,” said Nurasiah. “I tell her, what we have now, it’s enough. We have water, food and school, and that has to be enough for now. We must be patient and stay active. Our life will get better.”




December 2006:
UNICEF correspondent Steve Nettleton reports on efforts to bring clean water to tsunami-affected families living in temporary shelters in Banda Aceh, Indonesia.
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December 2006:
UNICEF Representative in Indonesia Gianfranco Rotigliano talks about the agency's post-tsunami work in the country.
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