Indonesia: Rebuilding homes and livelihoods in Aceh

Originally published
by Teresita P.Usapdin in Aceh

His hands shake a little as he signs his name on the deposit slip and turns over the money to the bank clerk. As he waits for the next step, he grips his wheelchair with excitement.

When the bank teller hands back his pass book, Muzakir finally heaves a sigh of relief.

"It's done. Congratulations," says the clerk, as the people around him give a warm round of applause, taking turns to shake Muzakir's hand.

Like Muzakir, 60-year-old Laila, wearing her best clothes, given to her by a friend, is excited. She barely slept a wink the night before.

She and Muzakir are among the first of 42 heads of families to receive 850,000 rupiahs (US$ 85) at the launch of a livelihood programme for displaced families in Aceh province run by the Indonesia Red Cross (Palang Merah Indonesia - PMI) and the British Red Cross.

The launch at the Bank Central Asia (BCA) is another sign that the Red Cross Red Crescent tsunami operation is moving into the rehabilitation phase, six months after the disaster struck.

Like all the other people benefiting from the programme, Muzakir's and Laila's houses were swept away by the giant waves. "This will be our passbook to our new future," says Muzakir as he tucks the passbook inside his brown canvas shoulder bag. "I can build a new house in Ulee Paya and buy a fishing net."

Ulee Paya is a village in Pulau district on Beras island, where Muzakir and his family lived when the tsunami struck. It was also in Ulee Paya that he badly injured his legs while diving for sea cucumber and sea snails for a living.

"We are going back to Ulee Paya because that is where my family roots are. That is where we will always be," says a determined Muzakir.

Laila, a widow with five children, says she will make her money grow by putting up a small food stall, so that she can finance the education of her children.

"The education of my children is my priority. But maybe, I can build a house, too."

Another programme recipient, 50-year-old Jallaludin, who is married with five children, says he will use the money to build a new house and buy a boat for his family's subsistence. "We are glad there is this financial assistance from the Red Cross. At least, we can choose where to spend the money, according to our priorities."

As part of the rehabilitation phase of the tsunami operation, the PMI and British Red Cross livelihood programme is aiming to reach out to 10,000 displaced families in Aceh province with support from the Indonesian government, the International Federation and partner national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies as well as other non-governmental organisations.

"This is a huge project. We are happy that other key players are giving their full support and cooperation to ensure its success," says Matthias Schmale, British Red Cross Director of international operations.

The programme will cost some US$ 70 million over a period of three years. The funds will be provided through the Disaster and Emergency Committee, an umbrella organization uniting 13 of the United Kingdom's major aid agencies.

The objective of the programme is to empower the beneficiaries, by providing them with funds that they can use as they deem appropriate to their circumstances.

"The implementation, however, should always be within the framework and guidelines agreed on by all parties concerned, including the beneficiaries," Schmale stressed. The programme covers housing, livelihood and education for children, with technical support from PMI and BRCS.

According to Bill Marsden, British Red Cross Senior Technical Advisor, each family will be given US$ 3,500, primarily for housing, and an additional US$ 1,000 for restarting some form of economic activity to generate income.

For single parents, an additional US$ 500 will be provided by the programme.

An orphan, on the other hand, gets an additional US$ 250 every year for three years, or a total of US$ 750, provided he or she goes to school and spends 85 per cent of the time studying, according to Marsden.

In the initial phase, each family receives US$ 85. Of this, US$ 60 will be deposited in a bank account under the name of the beneficiary. The remainder is for the land registration letter issued by the government, land certificate, and other basic family needs.

Over 95 per cent of the funds for the communities are delivered from international banks through the BCA into participating family bank accounts, which will be audited twice yearly. The programme has put in place monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to ensure that every cent is properly accounted for.

In the pilot area of Pulo Aceh, the American Red Cross will provide water and sanitation while the German Red Cross provides for the building of the schools.

The British Red Cross has a commitment to source timber for construction from sustainable and legal suppliers. It is also using house designs that have been tested for resistance to flood, earthquake and high winds.