Indonesia: Red Cross societies team up to bring safe water systems to Pulo Aceh
Food, supplies, shelter and clean water were scarce amid the mountainous terrain, and months passed before villagers began to return to the island they called home. In addition, many of the traditional sources of water-essential for drinking, cooking and cleaning-were contaminated by the salt water from the tsunami.
Facing the monumental challenge of recovery and reconstruction, the residents of Pulo Aceh were met with the helping hands of Red Cross partners - the American, British, German and local Indonesian national societies.
Working together in this disaster-stricken region, the Indonesian Red Cross (Palang Merah Indonesia or PMI) and the British Red Cross assisted villagers in initial clean-up efforts. Now, the American Red Cross is providing water and sanitation services for houses being built by the British Red Cross, while the German Red Cross has plans to build four schools on the island. The American Red Cross will provide water and sanitation infrastructure, hygiene promotion, and technical assistance for water committee management to benefit 1,200 people in five remote villages. They have also been training staff on the local water committees to ensure that these projects are sustainable over time.
Together, these activities by International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (Movement) partners will have a life-changing impact on Indonesian villagers isolated from mainstream relief services and transportation facilities. A Community Investment
Clean water was a necessity for returning residents and American Red Cross engineers quickly identified mountain springs on Pulo Aceh to use as water sources. Plans were drawn for dams and gravity-fed filter systems to pipe water directly into villages and British Red Cross house sites. Pulo Aceh residents signed on to help with construction.
With projects nearing completion in several targeted communities, American Red Cross team leaders say the hands-on involvement of local villagers is a key aspect for a successful recovery.
"Having the people of the community doing the construction helps give them a sense of ownership and pride in their new water system," said Teh Tai Ring, the American Red Cross water and sanitation delegate in Indonesia, "When it's finished, they won't look at it and say, 'This is what you did for us,' they'll say, 'Look at what we did for ourselves and our families'."
The residents of Pulo Aceh agree.
"We have all liked being a part of this project," said Rajali, a leader of one of the local construction teams. "The Red Cross is dedicated to helping the people of the island, and we will be able to have clean water in our villages for years to come because of what we built here together."
Most of Pulo Aceh's residents are farmers or fishermen by trade and their participation in the American Red Cross water and sanitation project will equip them with new skills, while supplying them with clean and safe water for their communities.
In the coming years, maintenance of the water systems will be in the hands of the people of Pulo Aceh, so the American Red Cross and PMI are working together to help local leaders form committees to ensure proper system care and promote health and hygiene initiatives in the villages.
Through community involvement and long-term planning, the American Red Cross and Movement partners will continue to help the people of Aceh effectively move toward recovery.
To people working closely on projects like those in Pulo Aceh, the impact is unmistakable.
"My family is from Aceh, so I was grateful to become a part of the American Red Cross team working here," said Bimo Khairul Fahmi, the American Red Cross project engineer for Pulo Aceh. "Our hope is that the people will continue to be proud of the work they've done building these water systems, and that strength will help give them an even better future."