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UN helps tsunami survivors who will not relocate

UN agency helps tsunami survivors who will not relocate from ravaged village

While the Indonesian Government is relocating to camps scores of thousands of people displaced by December’s devastating tsunami in Aceh province, the United Nations refugee agency is tending to the needs of 4,000 survivors who have made clear their ravaged fishing village is their home and they do not want to leave.

“The villagers keep talking about ground zero – they are determined to go back and rebuild as soon as possible and they don't want to go into camps,” the Asia Pacific bureau director for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Janet Lim, told a news briefing in Geneva today of the survivors from Kreung Sabe, half of whose inhabitants were swept away by the giant waves.

The survivors are intent on restarting their lives in the same place. They say they know the land and the sea.

Respecting the villagers' wishes, a pilot project with the Government and other agencies will take into account permanent shelter and essential community infrastructures such as mosques, health, water, sanitation and education facilities, Ms. Lim said of the way UNHCR is tailoring shelter solutions to meet the different circumstances of tsunami victims.

Special attention will be given to the needs of vulnerable groups, including separated children, single-parent families and the elderly. UNHCR has sent a senior physical planner to the village to help with site design. “If this works as well as we hope, then it's something we could replicate in other places along the west coast, if it suits the needs of the population,” Ms. Lim said.

With the project still in its infancy, UNHCR erected some 500 tents over the last week in Kreung Sabe as temporary housing for the displaced while they get on with rebuilding their lives. It has ferried in 7.5 tons of relief supplies into Kreung Sabe using Super Puma helicopters provided by the Swiss Government.

In Meulaboh, further down the coast, to get displaced people out of often squalid surroundings in temporary shelters, UNHCR is building tented camps to be run by Indonesian civilian authorities.

Overall more than 410,000 people have been displaced in Aceh province, the area most-devastated by the tsunami which hit a dozen Indian Ocean nations on 26 December. Indonesia accounted for at least two thirds of the more than 200,000 people estimated to have died.

Meanwhile in Sri Lanka, UNHCR has distributed plastic sheeting to more than 160,000 people together with other non-food relief items. It is also working with local authorities in the south and northeast to supply 2,000 tents, capable of housing 10,000 people overall, to those who need them most, such as vulnerable families or those moving out of public buildings like schools. These tents were airlifted by the Saudi Red Crescent Society from Jordan.

Another 2,500 tents are expected to arrive this weekend from Pakistan, donated by United States non-governmental organization (NGO) AmeriCares, while a further 5,500 are set to arrive mid-month from Jordan, courtesy of the Kuwaiti NGO International Islamic Charitable Organization.


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