Monday, January 17, 2005

ACEH- A report from Fr Dass (JRS)

Dr Andrew Choo(Catholic Doctors Association of Malaysia) and Fr Dass ,Jesuit Refugee Service(JRS), have just returned to Malaysia from their recent trip to Aceh to assess the Tsunami Situation first hand. They left for Medan on 5th January 2005 and have just returned a few days ago. Following is a brief report on the current situation based on our discussion with them:
1) The problem in Aceh is still chaotic and the logistics problem has yet to be fully sorted out. Aid and supplies are still stuck in the airports in Medan, Subang(KL), Bangkok and Jakarta. The German medical team still has a mobile operating theatre stuck in Bangkok
2) Transport to Banda Aceh is still limited. Flights from Medan to Banda Aceh are fully booked. Dr Choo and Fr Paul waited 2 days in Medan and could not get a flight and instead they hired a van and brought their supplies by road, a journey that took them 12 hours.
3) Banda Aceh is full of Aid Agencies and many medical teams from all over the world. The main problem is getting these teams to the severely affected areas which is the West Coast. Most of the severely injured have been airlifted to Medan or Jakarta. Dr Choo ran a mobile clinic one morning. He saw about 60 patients but only 2 of them were actual tsunami survivors.
4) The severely affected areas are the West Coast of Aceh Province which is still inaccessible by road. Only recently has aid been able to reach the 2 largest coastal towns of west Aceh which is Calang and Meulaboh. Even then these 2 towns are only accessible via helicopters, light aircraft or via a road from the southern part of Sumatra. A return boat ride from Banda Aceh to the coastal villages on the west coast may take 5 to 7 days. The villages along the western seashore of Aceh have mostly disappeared. The survivors are now living in their relatives’ houses, public spaces or temporary shelters. There are many public buildings destroyed, including schools, hospitals markets and government offices. Nobody knows when the infrastructure can be rebuilt and repaired. It appears that they are in dire need engineers and others to repair roads, bridges and provide proper sanitation and safe water supplies.
5) It would be useful to have proper contacts with a local agency who know the local people and the geography in Aceh. It was fortunate that Dr Choo and Fr Dass were with the JRS in Aceh. There were some French and German doctors who also had to seek the help of the JRS office in Aceh. The JRS have been working in Aceh since June 2001. Over the years they have played a significant role in assisting the displaced persons in Aceh. Their present goal now is to respond to the needs of the Tsunami and earthquake victims, especially in remote areas in order to help the people restore their lives. Their current activities are directed towards improving things like health and sanitation, education, trauma healing, supporting local NGOs and restoring normal life. They have appealed for aid and donations can be sent to: Account Name: Yayasan JRS Indonesia, Account Number: 0372 197 101, Bank Name: Bank Central Asia_Sudirman Yogyakarta, Address of Bank: Jl. Sudirman, Yogyakart, Indonesia, Swift Code: CENAIDJA

Posted By Dr K Y Chong, Malaysia