Friday, 26 December 2014

Indonesia remembers Tsunami in Aceh and thanks international community

By Devi Asmarani 

Vice President Jusuf Kalla (left) at UNICEF’s stand at the Tsunami Expo accompanied by UNICEF’s Banda Aceh Field Office Coordinator Umar bin Abdul Azis (second left) and UNICEF Indonesia Representative Gunilla Olsson. ©UNICEF Indonesia/2014/Devi Asmarani

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia, 26 December 2014 - Thousands of people gathered in Aceh today in a solemn and moving ceremony to remember the Indian Ocean tsunami that devastated much of Indonesia’s westernmost province 10 years ago today. 

Many survivors as well as local and foreign dignitaries attending the ceremony at the Blang Padang public park in the provincial capital of Banda Aceh burst into tears as they listened to poems and songs that were performed accompanied by photos and videos of the disaster.

Acehnese singer Rafly led the audience to sing along with him to a haunting folk song in the local dialect, and prominent poet Taufik Ismail read a poem that recalled the giant waves that swept about 170,000 people to their death.

"Thousands of corpses were sprawled in this field,” said Vice President Jusuf Kalla at the ceremony. “There were feelings of confusion, shock, sorrow, fear and suffering. We prayed.”

But he said the massive help received for Aceh immediately after the tsunami, which left nearly half a million people displaced, helped revive the spirit of the survivors.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

How the chaos post-tsunami helped Aceh become a child protection pioneer

When a child is accused of a crime, the police tries to use mediation to resolve the situation and in more than half of the case, it works. © UNICEF Indonesia/2014/Achmadi

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia, October 2014 – About a year ago, three teenage boys were arrested by police at a sports stadium in Banda Aceh for beating up a 21-year-old man. Two of the boys were 17 and the third had just turned 18. In the past, they would have ended up in jail. But thanks to some far-reaching legal reforms, initiated after the Indian Ocean tsunami, things developed in a different direction.

They were held for 24 hours at the children’s unit at the police station while their families as well as the heads of the villages where they lived were contacted. The victim’s family and village head were also asked to attend the police station where all the parties sat down to talk.

This is a process known as mediation. Police records don’t show how long it took in this instance, but officers say on average its takes three mediation sessions to resolve a case.

The families talked about the situation and tried to come to an agreement about how the perpetrators should be punished. In the end, the families of the three boys agreed to pay the medical expenses of the victim within ten days, or face a court case. The three were then released.

Ten years ago, the police had no mandate to facilitate a mediation like this. The boys would have been facing a trial and a maximum jail sentence of five years. Children used to be treated much like adults when they were accused of committing an offense or a crime. But since the tsunami struck the area on the 26th of December 2004, Indonesia’s Aceh province has made huge strides in how it deals with children who come into contact with the law.


Saturday, 20 December 2014

The long-term benefits of Building Back Better

Students carry  a victim during an earthquake drill at Muhammadiyah 1 Primary school in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. © UNICEF Indonesia/2014/Achmadi

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia, October 2014 - Picture this: It’s a Sunday morning in late December in Banda Aceh. You’re awaken by a strong earthquake early in the morning and you know something is wrong.

Soon, you’re running away from the forceful tsunami water that flattens almost everything in its wake. You’ve lost sight of family members, and your only thought is saving your life by getting to higher ground. You reach the top of a hill, along with others, some of whom have been injured in the scramble to escape the water.

Looking down at the town of Banda Aceh below you, you see a picture of devastation. Trees, houses and roads have been washed away. Debris is piled everywhere – sheet metal, rubble, branches….and bodies. You’ve lost everything and you have no idea if or how your family members have survived. All infrastructure is gone. And as your mind tries to come to terms with what has just happened, it suddenly occurs to you – I’ve survived this disaster, but what am I going to drink, eat? Where am I going to sleep?

Monday, 15 December 2014

Surviving the tsunami, creating a better future

17-weeks pregnant and carrying her three-year-old daughter at the time, Rosna credited her survival to a TV programme about tsunami that made her aware of what was coming after the powerful earthquake. © UNICEF Indonesia/2014/Achmadi

JANTHO, Indonesia, October 2014 - Rosna was saved from the tsunami by her television. She had seen a nature programme about earthquakes and volcanoes and seismic activity. When she felt the large quake that preceded and caused the Indian Ocean tsunami on 26th December 2004, she suspected what might be about to happen.

17 weeks pregnant with her second child at the time, she ran from her house in Banda Aceh, carrying her three-year-old daughter Cut Rachmina with her. Although caught up in the water, she managed to reach higher ground without injury and was eventually reunited with her husband Johansyah, who had also managed to escape.

The disaster wiped out most of Banda Aceh, but Rosna’s family was extremely lucky to survive. Their home, however, had been destroyed. They had no water, no food and could not save any of their possessions. In the space of a few hours they had gone from house owners to IDPs – internally displaced people. A makeshift tent became their home.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

UNICEF Activate Talks Jakarta Highlights: CRC@25

Video highlights of UNICEF's second Activate Talks event in Indonesia, commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Child Rights Convention, featuring five youth speakers below the age of 25. Watch the full event here. 

Monday, 8 December 2014

The emergency volunteers who stayed to build a community

Elvi Zaharah Siregar teaches at the state vocational school SMK Negeri 1 in Calang, Aceh Jaya. Ten years ago, she was among the first batch of volunteer teachers sent to Aceh after the tsunami. © UNICEF Indonesia / 2014 / Achmadi.  

CALANG, Indonesia, October 2014 – Dian Permata Sari was just six years old when the Indian Ocean tsunami destroyed her home town of Calang, around 100 kilometers south of Banda Aceh on Indonesia’s Sumatra island.

After the huge earthquake on the morning of the 26th December 2004, Dian’s family saw the seawater receding. They managed to run to the hills before the tsunami hit the shore. The family stayed away from the coast for two days.

“When we came back, all the buildings were destroyed, the trees had been brought down and there were bodies and garbage everywhere,” says Dian, now a serious and articulate 16-year-old girl.


Just 700 kilometres away in North Sumatra’s capital city of Medan, Elvi Zahara Siregar also felt the earthquake.

As a newly qualified teacher, the 26-year-old was still living with her parents at the time. 

Elvi remembers that day clearly – the earthquake that caused the devastating tsunami in Aceh shook her house in Medan so violently, she couldn’t stand up for five minutes and water in her parents’ aquarium kept splashing over the sides and onto the floor.

Over the following days, she watched television news reports of the havoc that had been wreaked in Aceh province.


Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Tsunami in Aceh 10 Years On

© UNICEF Indonesia / 2005 / Josh Estey

On 26 December 2014, it will be exactly ten years since the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami hit Indonesia, India, Thailand, Sri Lanka and a number of other countries. At least 230,000 people were killed, hundreds of thousands lost their homes and all their belongings, and vast coastlines were completely wiped out.

In worst hit Aceh, Indonesia’s westernmost province, the giant waves killed 170,000 people and left 500,000 homeless. The disaster also caused immense social, economic, and environmental devastation to areas that were already poor, severely damaging existing institutions and washing away human resources, the basis of the province’s sustainable development.

Within 48 hours, UNICEF arrived in Aceh and began the largest emergency operation in its history aiming to ensure that no child would die in the aftermath of the catastrophe by organizing mass immunization campaigns and restoring water supply and sanitation.