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Aceh: reunited after a month

02-02-2005 Feature

Trying to reunite loved ones separated by the earthquake and tsunami disaster has been a major part of the ICRC's response in the Indonesian province of Aceh. ICRC delegate Bernt Appeland met one family whose members found each other again.


" Don't cry mama! Can't you see that I am here? " says 14 year old Wulan.

She gives her mother, Zuriah, a long hug before greeting her brother and sister in the same way. After 32 days without seeing each other the family is back together at last.

This moment of happiness amongst so much grief takes place under a blue tarpaulin in a camp for the displaced in the village of Lampoh Lhok Darma on the outskirts of Banda Aceh.

Despite Wulan's plea, her mother and sister are in floods of tears. Then, a smile breaks over Zuriah's face and she tells her daughter how glad she is to see her alive.

Wulan was staying with friends the night before the tsunami hit. The girls were alone at home when the tidal wave struck. They managed to escape the water and travelled inland where they sought shelter in a camp for the displaced. After three days the father of Wulan's friend found the girls and began the search for Wulan's family.

He discovered that the family home in Banda Aceh had been completely destroyed. Unable to establish the fate of Wulan's m other, brother and sister, he took Wulan home to Sigli with his own daughters. 

On January 20, a joint ICRC and Indonesian Red Cross team visited Sigli and registered Wulan as an unaccompanied minor. Like others registered in this way, Wulan's name was then entered onto a database managed by the ICRC delegation in Jakarta.

Through this database, delegates were able to match Wulan's details with those of her mother who had earlier filled out an ICRC form indicating that she was looking for her daughter. On January 24, Wulan was told that her family was safe and well.

Now they are back together.

As I am leaving the reunited family, Wulan comes running after me. She takes my hand, brings it up to her forehead and then gives me the brightest smile.

It is a moment that I will never forget.