Indonesia

Indonesia: "Looking back five years since the tsunami, I know I was lucky"

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Andina Raden was a medical student in Banda Aceh, Indonesia when the 2004 tsunami struck. Soon to be a doctor and currently interning at the Banda Aceh Zainal Abidin Hospital, she was a key player in Merlin's tsunami recovery work for over two years. Here, she reflects on the difference that has been made in the last five years.

Looking back five years since the tsunami, I know I was lucky. Having not only survived the tsunami, I was also able to help. I joined Merlin's team and put my medical background to work. I was so happy to have a chance to work with an agency that provides health care to people.

After the tsunami hit, health centres were badly damaged. Many health workers perished - estimates put the figure as high as 70 per cent. Getting health care to people who needed it was a very big challenge. Infectious disease was a looming threat and there weren't the facilities, the capacity, or the health workers available.

We had programmes in four districts providing support to people living in emergency shelters. In these settings, they have higher infection risks. Merlin distributed insecticide-treated bed nets to help prevent diseases like malaria and provided much-needed clean water for displaced people living in camps.

There are now so many positive changes for the people of Aceh with the help of Merlin, alongside other agencies. Merlin not only restored health care to the community, but also upgraded it to a higher level.

Now on my surgery rounds at the city hospital, I see how Merlin's legacy continues to make a difference for people needing medical aid. An emergency room patient transferred from another district arrived in an ambulance that Merlin donated. I was indeed happy to see that. Having worked with Merlin, I felt as I had been involved in helping that patient, even in an indirect way.

Five years on, I am like many people in Aceh. We are rebuilding our lives and our communities. We all faced huge losses. My grandfather died on his way to Darussalam to attend my cousin's wedding. Relatives were lost, others survived.

But one thing I remember well after retuning to my home after the tsunami. I had a meeting with some of my friends and we all decided we wanted to do something for anyone who needed our help. With Merlin, I was able to do that then and I continue to do so today - in a stronger and healthier health system.