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Aceh: for the missing and the dead

15-12-2005 Feature

The ICRC's Rafiullah Qureshi reports how ICRC engineers are rehabilitating water supplies in Aceh.

Teuku Youvan is an engineer by profession. On December 26, 2004 he was away working in a factory in Jakarta. This may have saved his life for other members of his family were not so lucky.

  ©ICRC/R. Qureshi/id-e-00217    
  A rehabilitated tap stand    
    The giant wave destroyed Teku Youvan's family ju st as it extinguished another 130,000 lives in Aceh, Indonesia. He lost his father, mother, a sister and her son and the house they lived in. The only surviving member of his family is a younger sister, who went back with him to Jakarta after the disaster. But after a few months in the city Youvan began to feel restless. In April 2005, he decided to return to Aceh to help rebuild his community.
Soon after his return, he joined the ICRC's Water & Habitat department. Present in Aceh since 1998 because of the conflict there, the ICRC has played an important role in the emergency response to meet the needs of survivors.
One of its most important activities is to provide access to safe water and better sanitation.
In selected villages and temporary settlements, teams of ICRC engineers clean, reconstruct and rehabilitate wells, and build new latrines or upgrade existing ones.    
  ©ICRC/R. Qureshi/id-e-00218    
  Youvan inspecting the temporary repairs of the water pipeline    

The village of Lam pageu is typical. Situated in the district of Aceh Besar, the village is right on the coast and close to the mountains. Signs of destruction are still visible but there are more encouraging indications of reconstruction too – piles of bricks and busy construction workers.

Before the tsunami, the villagers were dependent on water piped in from a mountain spring. The tsunami destroyed the system and the ICRC team has identified the village for a rehabilitation project. With the help of the villagers in digging new trenches, Youvan and his ICRC colleagues managed to rehabilitate the one and a half kilometre pipeline. A new tap stand was also installed in the village.

Until now, Youvan and his other colleagues at the ICRC Water & Habitat department have reconstructed, rehabilitated and dug 1,500 wells and completed dozens of latrines and other sanitation schemes. He likes his job because it brings him closer to people and communities and it helps compensate for his own personal grief.

" We will rebuild Aceh " he says, " We owe this to the missing and the dead " .

Youvan never found the dead bodies of his father and niece; he was able to bury his mother and sister.