Down to Earth No 64  March 2005

This edition of Down to Earth focuses on the human and environmental toll of the tragic events of December 26th and raises some key concerns about the future.

As the death toll from the 26th December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunamis climbed higher and higher, the world watched with horror. Aceh, nearest the epicentre of the earthquake that triggered the gigantic destructive waves, suffered the most. Here the death toll was estimated at 250,000 by the end of February.

Down to Earth No 64  March 2005

For many tsunami survivors whose homes and livelihoods were totally swept away in the early hours of December 26th, rebuilding their lives means starting from scratch. What lies ahead for these shattered communities and who will decide what happens next?

Acehnese civil society organisations are highlighting the overriding need for participation by the affected communities in the reconstruction and recovery processes and for transparency and accountability in the use of funds.

Down to Earth No 64  March 2005

Alliance of Indigenous Peoples of the Archipelago (AMAN) Press Statement

All that's left for the survivors now is the thin thread of life and a stack of questions and fears.

The government has a three-stage plan to tackle the disaster in Aceh and North Sumatra. The emergency stage programme will be the priority until December 2005, when aid will be directed towards clothing, food and health. The emergency funding amounts to Rp1.35 trillion.

Down to Earth No 64  2005

Fisherfolk in Aceh are particularly vulnerable in the process of Aceh's recovery and reconstruction. They lived in coastal communities that were worst hit by the disaster. Many were poor and used to live very traditional lifestyles. Typically, their homes were small thatched huts close to the seashore. Their whole way of life was completely dependent on local marine resources. This was basically subsistence-level fishing.

Down to Earth No. 64, March 2005

The following account was compiled By DTE staff in early February.

Around week 2 post-quake, there were serious concerns about the plight of hundreds of thousands people made homeless by the tsunami-quake disaster. These IDPs (internally displaced persons) were living under tarpaulins or in tents in overcrowded conditions, made worse by heavy rains. Fears of epidemics of typhoid, cholera and other diseases drove the authorities to take emergency measures to establish 'temporary accommodation'.

Down to Earth No 64  March 2005

Coral reefs, seagrass beds, mangroves and peatlands, if maintained in a healthy state, reduce the severity of tsunami impacts. Several reports have highlighted the fact that mangroves and coral reefs, where they still remained, helped save lives on December 26th by acting as a buffer and absorbing the impact of the giant waves. Where they were absent, more lives were lost.

Down to Earth No 64  March 2005

Far more women, children and the elderly died in the quake-tsunami than teenagers and men. In Lambada village, there were only 105 survivors from a population of over 2,100; of these only 5 were women. This is not atypical. The overall gender balance in Aceh may have been changed by 20% or more.

The reasons why so many women died may never be known. Many stayed to save their children when the first tsunami struck. Others could not run fast enough to higher ground while carrying babies and toddlers.