On Dec. 26, 2004, an earthquake and tsunami racked the shores of South Asian countries with great force. Indonesia's Aceh Province, the region closest to the epicenter of the earthquake, was one of the areas hit hardest by the tsunami. The Indonesian government put the number of people dead or missing at more than 230,000, the majority Acehenese. More than 400,000 Acehenese were displaced from their homes.
The IRC, already serving 125,000 people uprooted by the ongoing civil war in Aceh, reacted immediately. Drawing on the skill and experience of its local Acehenese staff and the relationships they had built over the years with local aid organizations and the government, the IRC worked to save lives, meet acute survival needs, reduce suffering and safeguard the long-term health and well-being of affected populations. Mobile relief teams, with specialists in health, water and sanitation, and child protection, fanned out across Aceh Province to deliver emergency services and supplies to the most devastated villages. Traveling by boat, truck and helicopter, IRC team members provided urgent medical treatment, constructed emergency sanitation facilities, brought in water, protected springs, and cleaned and disinfected wells; they also identified vulnerable children and provided psychosocial, educational, recreational and family reunification assistance.
The IRC is committed to providing long-term aid for tsunami-affected communities. Post-crisis reconstruction is a core competency of the IRC, and on average, the organization remains in an area for eight to ten years after an emergency. In Aceh, the IRC has developed a three-pronged strategy for reconstruction and rehabilitation. It calls for:
- Rehabilitation of Aceh's health care infrastructure;
- Provision of psychosocial support to children and the families who care for them; and
- Community regeneration, including the redevelopment of Aceh's devastated agricultural sector and fishing industry.
Specific components of the strategy include rebuilding health care facilities and schools, training health care personnel and teachers, providing support for quick impact income-generation projects, restoring farm land to productive use, repairing and refitting the area's fishing fleet, and working with the government to rebuild the province's infrastructure at the national, district and local levels.