Some Tsunami-Hit Areas Remain Desolate Six Months Later
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DAN RIVERS: It’s dark and as barren as the day the ocean savaged this coast with such unremitting ferocity. This is Aceh, six months on.
Mile-after-mile is still a godforsaken wasteland, little sign here of the billions of dollars of aid raised after so many were claimed by the sea.
And this is how many tens of thousands of people are still living, afraid to move elsewhere lest they lose their land, clinging to the hope that one day the money will arrive to help them rebuild.
I visit one family who’ve lost everything, whose tent has been repeatedly flooded, three adults and three children living in utter misery. He says life is a struggle, but they have nowhere else to go.
Others are contending with profound trauma. Jamula Din lost his wife in the tsunami. He was the one who found her body. This photo is just about the only personal effect he has left. He says he cries himself to sleep every night thinking about his wife.
Some building is under way, in this case funded by a U.S. charity, but the scale of what’s needed is massive, and there are problems. Here, new houses have been erected in the wrong place; already they’re flooded by the sea.
The man newly appointed to oversee Aceh’s rebuilding admitted to me that of the $5 billion in his budget given by foreign governments, only a tiny amount has been spent.
DAN RIVERS: How much is that as a percentage of the overall amount donated, 10 percent?
KONTORRO MANGKUSUBROTO: No, no, no -
DAN RIVERS: Less?
KONTORRO MANGKUSUBROTO: One percent.
DAN RIVERS: One percent.
KONTORRO MANGKUSUBROTO: One percent. One percent
DAN RIVERS: Has been spent so far?
KONTORRO MANGKUSUBROTO: Yes.
DAN RIVERS: Do people find that very unacceptable?
KONTORRO MANGKUSUBROTO: Well, yes, that’s not acceptable. Actually we have to move much faster than this because six months is about as intense — is very long, okay?
DAN RIVERS: Most of the money spent has been on food, medicine and emergency supplies so far. It’s prevented disease and starvation, but getting on with the long-term reconstruction has been hampered by endless bureaucracy and government restrictions.
Some charities have cut through the red tape building these new houses, but they admit, progress is slow.
PATRICK NICHOLSON: I think it’s taking too long and if you come back in even two months and it’s the same situation, then I think aid agencies have got to start asking questions of themselves of why the progress hasn’t been quicker.
DAN RIVERS: But for every little pocket of hope, there are these vast vistas of utter despair, where it appears for the last six months, nothing has been done, and while the charities and aid organizations and the government argue about how best to spend the money here in Aceh, there are literally tens of thousands people still living in tents amid this misery.
Those that survived are bonded together by grief and poverty. The world responded to this disaster, but don’t think for a minute that their suffering is over.