Five years ago on 26 December 2004, 230,000 people were killed when the tsunami struck south-east Asia. More than 1.5 million people were left homeless and in an instant the lives of millions of people were changed forever.
In Aceh, Indonesia, 180,000 people lost their lives that day, while hundreds of thousands of houses, schools, hospitals and shops were destroyed.
Islamic Relief was one of the first aid agencies on the ground in Aceh after the tsunami struck. From that first day our aid workers have worked tirelessly to provide people with emergency aid, healthcare, new houses and education.
In the first few weeks we distributed emergency food and medical aid to over 20,000 people and provided temporary shelter to 2,000 homeless people. Throughout the next year we continued to provide healthcare, clean water, food and sanitation facilities to thousands of people, gradually turning our attention to the longer-term needs of the affected population.
Over the last five years we have rebuilt schools, clinics, markets and homes, and have provided training and support to help people rebuild their livelihoods.
In Aceh over half a million people were left homeless when the tsunami swept away their houses. Many ended up living in camps and barracks for many months or even years. Providing new homes for displaced people was one of our largest programmes in Aceh, and over the last five years we have ensured more than 4,500 tsunami-affected people have new houses.
All the new housing settlements were constructed with essential amenities such as roads, water sources, waste disposal systems and public spaces. The design of the houses and surrounding areas was done in participation with the community to ensure their needs were met.
The tsunami almost completely destroyed the health infrastructure of Aceh, leaving people with limited access to medical care. After the disaster we ran mobile health clinics to provide people with emergency health care, as well as providing four ambulances to the Ministry of Health.
In addition we also rebuilt 27 health clinics and one hospital that had been destroyed in the disaster and trained over 200 health workers and 116 midwives. We also ran community health campaigns that benefitted thousands of people.
More than 2,000 schools in Aceh were destroyed by the tsunami and many thousands more were badly damaged, forcing teachers to conduct lessons in overcrowded, temporary classrooms. To assist we established three mobile learning centres to help children living in the camps.
To help ensure children were able to return to school, Islamic Relief constructed 23 new schools and repaired a further nine. Each of these schools was fully equipped with furniture, playgrounds, sports facilities and libraries. We also provided 120 teachers with skills training to help them support children traumatised by the disaster.
After the tsunami hundreds of thousands of people in Aceh were forced from their homes, ending up in temporary camps or barracks. These settlements often had limited access to clean, safe water and sanitation facilities, and waterborne diseases were rife.
Islamic Relief initially provided clean water to thousands of people living in the camps, later expanding our work to rebuild the damaged wells and sanitation facilities. Over the past five years 39 new wells have been built providing water to 30,000 people, and we have provided sanitation facilities for 12,000 people.
As well as taking lives and destroying homes, shops and clinics, the tsunami also took away many people’s means of making a living. Even before the tsunami many people in Aceh were living in poverty. After the tsunami, 80,000 people were left with no income.
In the first few weeks and months we provided 8,500 with a short-term income through our Cash-for-Work programmes. We also established 500 new market stalls and 14 permanent markets, where people are now selling livestock, vegetables and fish.
To build the capacity of the affected population we provided 1,500 people with vocational training in skills such as carpentry, tailoring and computing, and provided 170 community groups with business support and training. Individuals were provided with their own equipment such as boats, rickshaws and sewing machines, as well as interest-free loans to allow them start their own income-generating activities.
Disaster risk reduction
As well as helping communities to rebuild their lives after the tsunami, we also believe it is important to mitigate the impact of any future disaster. This is why we are working with local people to raise awareness of natural disasters, to inform people how to effectively prepare for them and to develop mitigation strategies. The mechanisms utilise the existing skills and capacities of the community to reduce the number of people injured or killed during a natural disaster.
We are also working to enhance the disaster response capacity of existing government structures at the village level, by for example constructing community nursing and community health centres. Islamic Relief has also developed and implemented communication and coordination mechanisms to share information and lessons learned with government bodies, other NGOs and community groups.
Islamic Relief is now coming to the end of its five year relief and rehabilitation work in Aceh. However, we are still working with the local community to build their capacity to prepare and respond to future disasters, and ensure sustainable development in the region.