Indonesia's Tsunami Recovery

Indonesia's Tsunami Recovery

By: By Sean Sheridan, Contributing Writer   |   Posted: January 27, 2005

Compassion Offers Ongoing Relief and Hope
Ade Subahan, age 7, is one of the 68 children in the Kuh Istiqomah survivor camp in Aceh province, Indonesia. Among the fortunate, all of Ade's family survived the earthquake and tidal wave that hit on December 26, 2004. Compassion staff and aid volunteers visit several such displaced-person camps to give free medical treatment, survey needs and distribute much-needed supplies like drinking water, tents, small stoves and other cooking utensils.

The day after Christmas is typically restful in much of the Western world. For millions of people living in the Asian coastal regions of the Indian Ocean, it was a day of death and destruction.

Banda Aceh, the capital of the Aceh province on Indonesia's Sumatra Island, was near the epicenter of a 9.0-magnitude earthquake that set off a killer tsunami. Virtually swallowed whole by massive waves, the city was choked with debris left behind by the tsunami. Most of Banda Aceh was obliterated and more than 165,000 people died. For thousands of displaced survivors, home is a traumatizing state of appalling conditions in small, tented compounds.

Unprecedented Relief

News of the quake and tsunami triggered worldwide relief efforts. Compassion was among several development, relief and government agencies that hit the ground to offer aid soon after the waves ceased. Compassion's team consisted of staff from Compassion's Asia Area Office, as well as doctors, paramedics, counselors, teachers and child development workers.

Immediate efforts concentrated on distributing two initial truck loads of supplies consisting mainly of food, cooking and household supplies, small stoves, buckets, cooking pots, plastic sheeting for shelters and clean water.

Working out of a partially destroyed school in which Compassion staff initially had to break down doors  the school staff who held the keys were all killed in the tsunami  the team worked over the next three days to implement inventory control, financial procedures, communications, transportation, security and medical care. One team member even used personal funds to purchase supplies until relief monies were made available.

Compassion staff treated over 100 survivors the first three days, mostly for skin infections, wounds and diarrhea. Others were given counseling for depression, anxiety and hopelessness.

In addition to the massive relief operation that is still in process, the enormous task of cleaning up the debris and ruins is well underway. In Banda Aceh, bulldozers and other heavy equipment are clearing massive amounts of wreckage  mud, cars, trucks, boats, buses, remains of houses  and clean-up teams are still finding bodies every day. Fighting an indescribable stench, teams retrieve and bag the bodies while others load them onto trucks. These bodies are then unceremoniously buried in unmarked, mass graves in several locations around the city.

Hopeful Recovery

Although Compassion does not have any projects in the hard-hit Banda Aceh area, long after the emergency-aid helicopters and boats return home, we will continue to strengthen families in the area who are affected by this disaster.

Since the tsunami struck during Sunday-morning church services, many hundreds of Christians were killed in their churches. Compassion is building networks with surviving Christians and church leaders to encourage and mobilize pastors to care for the people in their communities. We're also providing clean-up work so adults can earn money to support their families. In addition, care is underway for dozens of children, especially those who are living in the tent compounds of survivor camps.

Hopeful stories abound: Three Compassion team members went to help clean up a church and were surprised to find Indonesian soldiers already at work. They learned that the soldiers were Christians on military assignment to the predominantly Muslim Aceh province. They had asked their commander for permission to come and clean the churches and it had been granted.

Compassion is dedicated to following through with these efforts and providing help for caregivers and new-found church partners. But the road to recovery will be long. Small earthquakes continue to hit the area. Living conditions and stresses for volunteer staff are extreme. Great effort is required to keep morale strong.

Please continue to pray for all those affected by the tsunami.

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