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Oxfam Has Sent Kiwi Engineers to Aceh

Oxfam sending Kiwi engineers to Aceh today

Oxfam New Zealand is deploying two New Zealand engineers up into the disaster-struck region of Aceh, Indonesia. The engineers, Dave Neru of Wellington and Les Collins of Queenstown, left Auckland at 15.10 Monday January 3 and are expected to arrive in the city of Medan Tuesday.

They will be met by Oxfam operational staff there and will proceed to Banda Aceh as soon as helicopter or cargo plane transport can be arranged, to join the growing Oxfam team on the ground.

Collins and Neru are being seconded to Oxfam by the New Zealand Water and Waste Association, with their first month’s salary being donated by their employers.

Both are very experienced water and sanitation experts with experience in disaster management, though the conditions in Aceh are unprecedented and the men fully expect a very challenging environment.

Oxfam New Zealand Executive Director Barry Coates said: “Oxfam New Zealand is very pleased to be able to add capacity to Oxfam’s operations on the ground in Aceh. This has only been possible through a combination of the generosity of Kiwis giving to our appeal, the support of NZ Water and Waste and the commitment of these two engineers.”

To donate to Oxfam New Zealand’s EARTHQUAKE TSUNAMI EMERGENCY FUND call 800 400 666 or donate online http://www.oxfam.org.nz

See below a briefing for detail of Oxfam operations in each country

Oxfam Operations following the South Asia Quake and Tsunami

Oxfam is scaling up existing operations in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India to provide relief and rehabilitation for hundreds of thousands of people affected by the Boxing Day quake and Tsumami in South Asia that has so far killed over 126,000 and injured and displaced millions. Oxfam is also completing assessments in the Maldives and Somalia.

In all its work Oxfam focuses on assisting the poorest and most vulnerable victims of the disaster. In each country Oxfam is focusing on restoring safe water and sanitation to victims of the tsunami as well as constructing temporary shelters and distributing provisions of food, clothing and basic items for personal hygiene.

It is expected that the impact of the disaster will be far reaching. After the initial recovery phase it is expected that it may take many years before housing and livelihoods are restored. Oxfam will work with communities over the long term to provide lasting solutions to poverty.

A summary of Oxfam operations in each country is provided below:

India: Oxfam has put together a plan costing up to £7 million to assist 50 – 60,000 people in four tsunami-hit regions. The plan – created in co-operation with government - will provide relief and help people get back on their feet. Initially Oxfam will assist 15,000 people in 13 villages in Cuddalore and Nagapatnum districts. The plan includes constructing latrines and solid waste disposal, paid work for locals for clearing debris and reviving water sources, the construction and repair of wells, temporary shelters, new housing, and provision of food for one month, clothes and utensils. Pregnant women will receive multivitamins, folic acid and iron. Volunteers will be trained in hygiene promotion, safe water practices and hand-pump repair.

A total of 355,000 people have been displaced by the disaster in India and a total of 12,709 lives lost. In the 3 districts where Oxfam works (Kanniyakamuri, Cuddalore and Nagapatnum) there are some 155,000 displaced people in some 196 schools, community buildings being used as temporary camps. Oxfam is currently distributing relief items to people living in temporary camps in Kanniyakamuri. Staff are buying many supplies in local markets – soap, buckets, shoes, mugs, sanitary napkins, coconut oil, lice combs, toothpowder and toothbrushes etc. We are sourcing water purification tablets in Trivandrum. Oxfam is also seeking to address the lack of privacy in the camps, a problem that especially affects women.

It was the fishing season and large trawlers were out at sea when the tsunami struck and rode out the swell. The men returned to land to find the wave had carried away their women and children. Many other smaller, wooden boats and nets were lost, and all fishermen are afraid to go to sea again. Oxfam will aid fishing communities by repairing trawler engines and purchasing trimarans (log rafts).

Sri Lanka: The Oxfam plane has arrived and unloaded enough equipment to provide clean water to 50,000 families and is being despatched throughout the country. To Batticoloa: 4,000 relief packs which include sanitary napkins, matches, candles, washing soap, detergent soap and sheets; 6,000 mats; 6,000 buckets; 3 barrels of chlorine; food for 11,000 families and 35,000 bottles of water. To Kilinochchi: 2,000 bed sheet packs, 2,000 sleeping mats, 4,000 buckets, 2 barrels of chlorine. To Trincomalee: 4,000 relief packs, 8,000 mats, 4,000 buckets and 2 barrels of chlorine. Local Oxfam staff – many of whom themselves lost their homes and possessions - are in each location and have already been distributing plastic sheeting, mats and cooked food and setting up water tanks. A team of experts in water and sanitation, food and nutrition and public health have arrived to support the local staff, and we are setting up a new base in south Sri Lanka to respond in Matara and Hambantota districts, one of the poorest parts of the country. In addition, a German cargo ship is being sent from Hong Kong with a container of goods for Oxfam donated by the shipping company. These include diesel generators, sleeping mats, plastic sheeting, sanitary napkins and women’s underwear (as many people have lost all but the clothes they stand up in).

Oxfam has also identified 9 camps with 10,000 people in them in Vaharai district as needing immediate relief. Eighty per cent of the coastline has been hit. In some places where there was once a government office or a hospital, there are now no buildings left. Government officials have been killed, government offices destroyed, records and information lost, telecommunications badly hit. Immediate priorities have been rescue and burial. But information is now starting to flow and the co-ordination mechanisms are kicking in with the government and UN working together. Damage is so great that in one town the Oxfam assessment team saw an enterprising government official who had set up his base under a tree and was getting university students to compile data on the needs of the local population.

Indonesia: Over 80,248 lives have been lost and it is estimated that there may be 1.26 million displaced people in the Bireun area, 572,000 in Lhokseum Awe and nearly 250,000 elsewhere. Because of the extreme level of destruction, co-ordination and logistics are still extremely difficult and across the whole region there are air traffic jams. Three Oxfam staff are on the ground in Banda Aceh starting to establish an operations base. Earth tremors continue. Local partner the NGO Coalition has compiled a provisional database of the numbers of internally displaced people in Aceh province. Banda Aceh is emerging as the main co-ordination centre and co-ordination - between the UN, the government and agencies – is improving. Oxfam and Unicef have been asked to provide clean water in Banda Aceh and the surrounding district. 20 tonnes of Oxfam equipment to provide water for 60,000 people is waiting at Medan Airport for immediate deployment. Congestion at the airport has meant that it will now be trucked in 400 kms. In the even worse-hit west the NGO Coalition has set up an operations centre in Bakongan but communications are still down.

Maldives: A two-person Oxfam team is was deployed to the Maldives on January 2nd. The number of deaths was relatively small but as the highest point is only a couple of metres high, the wave swept over the entire country; 30% of houses have been destroyed beyond repair and wells are filled with sea water.

Other news: Oxfam has funded a local NGO to do relief work in Thailand, is considering a possible response in the Andaman and Nicobar islands and is monitoring information from Burma and Somalia. An Oxfam local partner is part of an assessment currently underway in Somalia.


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