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Five years after Indian Ocean tsunami, Mercy Corps fosters long-term recovery in Indonesia

Indonesia, December 21, 2009

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Five years of recovery and rebuilding create a stronger, more peaceful Aceh. Agency helps communities better prepare for disasters; saving lives during recent earthquake in Padang, Indonesia

Portland, OR – On the five-year anniversary of the Indian Ocean tsunami, the global relief and development organization Mercy Corps reports that it is has helped 892,000 Indonesians restore their livelihoods and build back stronger and safer communities.

The 9.3 magnitude quake on December 26, 2004, created the massive tsunami that destroyed cities and villages across 13 countries and killed almost 230,000 people. Almost half of those deaths were in Indonesia.

Within days of the tsunami, Mercy Corps rushed emergency responders and relief supplies to the devastated coastal region of Aceh, Indonesia – the closest landmass to the epicenter of the quake. Over the next four months, Mercy Corps delivered emergency food to over 288,000 survivors, hygiene supplies to more than 253,000, and building materials to construct more than 500 temporary shelters. Cash-for-work programs cleared debris from over 13,000 hectares of public and agricultural land and 50 kilometers of road, and got money flowing back into the decimated local economy.

Mercy Corps quickly transitioned to long-term recovery, empowering local community groups, especially women’s groups, to identify and execute the most vital rebuilding projects. Microfinance and microcredit solutions, developed from the agency’s extensive experience in the sector, helped restart businesses and recapitalize local banks.

"When the tsunami hit, entire communities were leveled, lives lost, economies eliminated. After addressing the immediate needs like shelter, food and water, Mercy Corps turned our attention to rebuilding those communities," said Sean Granville Ross, Mercy Corps' Indonesia Country Director. "Once roads and properties were cleared, Mercy Corps worked with surviving business owners to restart their businesses so the local economy could begin to function and today those areas are thriving once again."

Recognizing that Indonesia is particularly prone to natural disaster, Mercy Corps has developed disaster preparedness programs to help communities plan for and respond to emergencies. Disaster Risk Reduction activities help people identify escape routes to higher ground and practice evacuation procedures. When a massive earthquake hit the city of Padang on the island of Sumatra in September of this year, the participants in the Mercy Corps program were well prepared, calling on the skills and training they received from the organization to stay safe. Zulkifli, a resident of the village of Mangopo, said proudly: “Our training from Mercy Corps was perfect. The community responded quickly, and no one was killed here.”

Five years after the tsunami, Mercy Corps continues to work in Aceh to improve child nutrition, provide farmers with access to microcredit and sustainable farming methods, and identify and train local leaders. “Mercy Corps believes that communities are most capable of solving their own problems. Empowering them is the best way to ensure lasting peace and development in Aceh,” said Rod Volway, Mercy Corps’ Aceh Program Director.

Mercy Corps works in more than 40 villages bringing communities together to build their futures through a comprehensive five-year planning process. Farmers are trained in proven rice cultivation techniques and provided access to real-time market information via radio, television, print media and text messages. Mercy Corps also works to strengthen community governance, supporting the election process of village leadership positions and building the capacity of local governments to ensure that positive change in Aceh continues long into the future.