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Slow Rebuilding Process Frustrates Tsunami Victims

A new house being built near a devastated area of Banda Aceh. Rebuilding is going slower than many hoped, but officials are confident they will do better in the coming year.
Michael Sullivan, NPR
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A new house being built near a devastated area of Banda Aceh. Rebuilding is going slower than many hoped, but officials are confident they will do better in the coming year.

The Asian tsunami that struck one year ago left nearly 170,000 people dead or missing in the Indonesian province of Aceh alone. Hundreds of thousands more lost their homes and just about everything else.

The outpouring of aid from the international community was unprecedented. More than $5 billion was pledged to help with the relief and reconstruction effort. That effort has had mixed results so far.

One project making some progress is an effort by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to build homes for a handfull of the estimated 400,000 people left homeless by the tsunami.

The IOM runs 16 factories building the components for new homes to house Tsunami victims.

Paul Dillon is with the IOM field office in Banda Aceh he says his group has finished more than 900 houses so far, and has funding for 11,000 more.

IOM has built more houses -- and better houses -- than most groups working here. But the task is bigger than any one organization.

No one expected that task to be completed overnight. But almost everyone believed it would move faster than it has. A year after the tsunami, the United Nations says up to 100,000 Achenese are still living in tents.

Eddy Purwanto, deputy director of Aceh's Reconstruction Agency, says that broken promises by some foreign relief groups have eroded some of the good will generated by the initial relief effort.

The initial response to the tsunami was -- by all accounts -- extraordinary. Food, water, and medicine arrived and was distributed quickly to those who needed it.

The reconstruction phase hasn't gone as smoothly. Lack of clear guidelines on how and where to rebuild is one reason. Lack of coordination, says U.N. recovery coordinator Eric Morris, is another.

The Indonesian government is even considering asking some aid groups to leave Aceh in the next few weeks in order to streamline the rebuilding process.

The U.N.'s Morris says he hopes to have all the displaced out of tents by March. The Aceh Reconstruction Agency's Eddy Purwanto says the government is aiming to finish 40,000 houses in the next year.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Michael Sullivan is NPR's Senior Asia Correspondent. He moved to Hanoi to open NPR's Southeast Asia Bureau in 2003. Before that, he spent six years as NPR's South Asia correspondent based in but seldom seen in New Delhi.