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UNDP Aceh Clean Up Focuses On Hospitals, Schools

PICKING UP THE PIECES: ACEH CLEAN UP FOCUSES ON HOSPITALS, SCHOOLS

Jakarta, 25 January 2005- The daunting task of moving hundreds of tons of tsunami-strewn rubble and debris from Banda Aceh is now underway in key public facilities, with local and national authorities taking the lead in what is expected to be a physically and emotionally difficult period.

Chief among the clean up tasks is clearing the heavy muck, sludge and debris the tsunami left behind in public facilities such as hospitals and schools. Banda Aceh remains hampered by the pervasive filth and rubble now covering much of the city centre, barring genuine recovery both physical and psychological. Removing this debris is among the top priorities for the government, and uppermost in UNDP's recovery support agenda.

Clearing sludge, however, takes technical know-how and skills. The Australian Engineer Corps, with support from UNDP, has provided training for the IDPs mobilized through UNDP's labour-intensive cleaning programme specifically on clearing the drainage system at the General Hospital in the centre of Banda Aceh, where both the Australians and UNDP have focused their clean-up efforts in the past week. Work on the hospital should be completed by early next week, and UNDP is assessing other potential sites in order to ensure that there is no break in the daily routine for the IDPs. Working closely with the IDPs, moreover, has meant creating a plan for reconstruction in line with local interests and preferences.

"The idea is not only to clean up, but to get displaced persons working and productive," commented UNDP Team Leader Kristanto Sinandang. "There have been far more IDPs interested in getting involved in this programme than we have been able to accommodate so far. With donor support, we are planning to significantly scale up this effort - so we can hopefully include thousands more very soon."

UNDP's labour intensive rubble removal programme, which is involved in moving both large debris and siphoning off miles of sludge, has so far mobilized 310 affected by the tsunami. The focus on employing the displaced for small scale rubble removal is both for getting the recovery underway as well as providing useful employment for those left with nothing. Past experience in other disasters has proven that getting IDPs out of the camps and into some daily routine is a tremendously therapeutic boost for their morale and their hopes for a better future.

Hospitals are not the only facilities receiving the attention of the UNDP clean-up teams. The local Department of Public Works, and the Indonesian NGO Panglima Laot, which is UNDP's implementing partner on this initiative, have identified several schools in need of urgent attention and UNDP is currently deciding on next steps. "We are trying to do what we can to help the local authorities get the schools up and running by January 26th. That is the date the Government has set for reopening all the schools and it's admirable, but there is still a lot of work to do," comments Vera Yuliana, a national UN Volunteer working with UNDP in Banda Aceh.

Requests for UNDP support is growing, even as the mountains of rubble are slowly chipped away. Several inter-agency consultations on immediate repair requirements have yielded new requests for UNDP's assistance, including support to rehabilitation of the old port, to damaged bridges, and in helping local authorities to refurbish IT-related equipment and training.

* * *

UNDP is the United Nations worldwide development network. It advocates change and provides countries with access to the knowledge, skills and resources their populations need to improve their lives.

Latest information on tsunami disaster efforts is available at: http://www.undp.org/bcpr/


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