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UN To Return To Aceh For Tsunami Rebuilding


UN Refugee Agency Invited To Return To Aceh For Tsunami Rebuilding Effort

The United Nations refugee agency has been invited to return to Indonesia's Aceh province to assist in providing shelter as part of the longer-term effort to recover from the severe damage caused to settlements there by December's Indian Ocean tsunami, the Government of that country announced.

"Today is an important day for us to start rebuilding houses and settlements," said Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, the head of the Indonesian Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency for Aceh and Nias, as he announced the return of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) at a ceremony outside a mosque near the provincial capital of Banda Aceh.

"UNHCR has already made a valuable contribution to the relief effort in the area of temporary shelter and non-food items, and is helping to source additional tents in Nias and to replace older tents in Aceh. Now UNHCR and RedR Australia technical experts will also help provide permanent housing for those who need a place to live," he added.

The agency's assistance after the tsunami in Aceh was unprecedented for a body normally mandated to protect only those fleeing violence or persecution. But it was asked to contribute because of the enormity of the disaster, agreeing to leave in March when the initial emergency phase had ended.

On June 10, however, UNHCR signed a further agreement with Indonesia, sending a small team to Aceh to prepare the ground for the arrival of the experts from RedR Australia, a non-governmental organization that provides technical experts in shelter and engineering.

In the next phase of emergency rehabilitation, UNHCR's Representative in Indonesia, Robert Ashe, said the agency plans to build 1,000 houses and help communities in Aceh restore their lives.

"What's most important is that we can really help all these displaced people who, six months after the tsunami, need shelter and community life," added Janet Lim, UNHCR's Asia Pacific bureau director in Geneva. "At the same time, we are now able to fulfil our obligations to all the donors who gave so generously to UNHCR for our tsunami relief operation."

As part of the UN Flash Appeal for the Indian Ocean tsunami, UNHCR asked for US$60 million for Indonesia, and has received $23 million. In addition, $13 million has been made available for UNHCR's overall tsunami disaster relief programme, and a good part of this fund is expected to be allocated to the Indonesia project.

Of these funds, UNHCR has so far spent some $9 million on the initial emergency phase of the tsunami relief effort, including aid to Nias island after a major earthquake on March 28.

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