Information und Analyse

Death toll skyrocketing – first foreign aid workers arrive in Aceh

30 December 2004

Update December 30th, 2004, 4 pm MET

Tsunami debrisFoto: Jörg Meier

Tsunami debris

Photo: Jörg Meier

According to latest BBC information, the confirmed death toll for Indonesia has skyrocketed to almost 80,000.

The Vice President calculated that the reconstruction costs would amount to 1 billion US Dollar. 150 million US Dollar were needed for immediate relief operations.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has suggested to the UN Secretary General that the United Nations host an aid conference for all states affected by the disaster. So far, apart from Kofi Annan also George W. Bush has given a positive response on this.

Aid pledges by the international community

Foreign government have increased their pledges to more than 220 million US Dollar for all the affected countries. 44 million thereof have been pledged by the European Union, with 10 million being earmarked for Indonesia

The German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has proposed initiating a debt moratorium for Indonesia and Somalia. The proposal shall be discussed during the forthcoming meeting of the Paris Club of creditor nations.

The US military which had due to a Congressional ban severed military cooperation with Indonesia is planning to support relief efforts: The carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and four others are on its way to Banda Aceh with among others numerous helicopters on board.

Aid and aid pledges by the Government of Indonesia

The Government of Indonesia has earmarked approximately 1.3 billion US Dollar over the next 5 years for relief and reconstruction operations. According to newspaper reports, the Ministry of Social Affairs has currently sent 100 trucks to Aceh and the Ministry of Public Works 45 heavy equipment vehicles and dozens of other emergency vehicles.

The Indonesian armed forces deployed in the province are engaged in the coming to terms with the disaster: The Navy has sent relief supplies to the city of Meulaboh and the Western coastal areas. Another task of the members of the Armed Forces in Aceh is to clear the places which are still littered with dead bodies. As Rachel Harvey from BBC put it: “The soldiers that were sent to Aceh to fight rebels now have a new task – disposing of the dead.” A number of soldiers led by the Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ryamizard Ryacudu where clearing the debris from the Baiturrahman Mosque, the landmark of Banda Aceh.

Readiness to donate in Indonesia

In view of the disaster that struck the country’s Westernmost part, Indonesians have shown great readiness to donate. NGOs have set up collection points and bank accounts for donation. The religious mass movements are collecting money. Charity events are planned. Members of Parliament donated money scheduled for travel expenses and partly also a month’s salary. Numerous big businesses in Indonesia donated larger amounts of money, among them Newmont Mining Corp. which is involved in a court case with the Government of Indonesia over pollution charges.

Foreign aid and aid workers arrive

Australian and Malaysian aircrafts have brought in food supplies to Aceh. On Wednesday, dozens of volunteers from different countries, amongst others from Malaysia, Australia, Taiwan, Japan and Singapore, arrived in Aceh. Medicines sans Frontieres have been among the first international organisations to start work in Aceh. Many more doctors and medical staff are urgently needed. According to news reports, one big hospital in Banda Aceh alone needs at least 200 more doctors and 600 other medical workers.

The Indonesian Red Cross has about 800 aid workers in Aceh some of whom would try to reach the western area.

The aid operation for Aceh has eventually started but proceeds far too slowly. In view of the sheer incomprehensible scope of the catastrophe unrestricted access to the disaster area is essential as is a well coordinated relief operation under civilian control. While in some news coverage a rather positive picture of the Indonesian Armed Forces is painted, we have received so far unconfirmed reports of new fighting in an area in the Northeast of Aceh with one GAM (Free Aceh Movement) fighter being killed by Indonesian troops. The symbolic move of an Amy Chief of Staff clearing the mosque must not make us forget what so far the task and the policy of the troops deployed in Aceh and their hardline Commander has been. On the political level, the international community should urge the Government of Indonesia to have its troops abide by the ceasefire. In view of the incredible pain and suffering that the troubled people in this war-torn region have now to endure, the GAM and the Indonesian military should lay down their arms and join efforts in rebuilding the province. <>

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