Relief lacking, threat of disease stalks Aceh: UN

Aceh rebels, Indonesian government to hold talks on ceasefire in Helsinki

Associated Press

Banda Aceh, January 28:

More than a month after the devastating tsunami, one in eight children in Indonesia’s Aceh province are malnourished, the threat of disease still stalks unsanitary relief camps and aid deliveries are inconsistent, two UN reports said. But the overall picture was one of improvement, the world body insisted today. “We know there are needs that are not being met ... (But) we are no longer worried about (whether) anyone is starving. The schools are reopening. That is a sure sign of recovery,” Bo Asplund, the United Nations representative in Indonesia, told The Associated Press in Banda Aceh, the provincial capital.

Meanwhile, rebels and government officials in both Indonesia and Sri Lanka were set to meet today to ease tensions and secure the safe delivery of relief to survivors of the December 26 tsunami. One UN report said unsanitary conditions are appalling in refugee camps along Aceh’s west coast. While Asplund echoed sentiments in the report, he said the situation was “well onto the path of recovery.” “Some coastal communities - small ones - are still needing adequate food ... Other communities need better water and sanitation,” he said.

The UN children’s fund warned that 12.7 per cent of children in Banda Aceh suffer malnutrition. UNICEF said that figure was a “critical emergency” requiring immediate intervention, and warned that conditions could be even worse outside the provincial capital.

Jakarta and Acehnese rebels were to start talks in Helsinki, Finland, to negotiate a formal ceasefire. Moves also were under way in Sri Lanka to ease tension between Tamil Tiger rebels and the government. The two sides were to meet today to discuss guerrilla demands for greater control over relief efforts in areas they control in the north and east.

Attention today also turned to averting future disasters. In Phuket, Thailand, a two-day conference follows a broad endorsement of a tsunami warning system at a UN gathering in Japan last week. Several nations, including the United States and Germany, have drawn plans for how to set up the network.

Ministers from around the world and officials from UN agencies held closed meetings to assess the monitoring equipment already in place in southern Asia, whether it could be used for tsunami detection and what additional hardware is needed.

28 aftershocks


At least 28 tremors have rattled India’s tsunami-lashed Andaman and Nicobar Islands over the past 24 hours, a meteorological department official said on Friday. The aftershocks, which began at 1025 GMT on Wednesday, ranged between 5.0 and 5.8 on the Richter scale. “They are coming continuously. These are all aftershocks of the December 26 quake,” the official said. There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage. — AFP