Teresita P. Usapdin in Meulaboh
As the world prepares to mark six months since the tsunami devastated many coastal areas of Asia, International Federation President Juan Manuel Suárez del Toro paid a visit on Wednesday 22 June to tsunami-stricken families in one of the worst-hit towns, Meulaboh, on the western coast Aceh province, Indonesia.
Visibly moved by the warm reception he received from the displaced families living in temporary centres in Ujung Tanjung, Suárez del Toro said he was impressed “by the positive attitude of the people despite the enormous damage of the tsunami and the traumatic experience they went through.”
“It is amazing how the people of Meulaboh have coped with the worst tragedy in recent history,” he added, as he handed over a relief package to one of the families. “These people are admirable.”
The Federation President said he was highly impressed by the work of the Indonesia Red Cross (Palang Merah Indonesia, PMI), especially its almost 2,000 volunteers who have been doing a heroic job alleviating the suffering of tsunami-affected families in Aceh province, as well as those who were affected by the devastating earthquake on 28 March on the islands of Simeulue and Nias in North Sumatra.
“I am very proud of our volunteers,” Del Toro asserted, listening to the volunteers talk to the people on ways to improve water and sanitation, as others continued to give relief goods and play games with the children.
"Their commitment in helping the affected families from day one has been immeasurable. I am glad we have people like them,” he said.
Suárez del Toro, who is also president of the Spanish Red Cross, visited the water and sanitation Emergency Response Unit (ERU) set up by his national society, as well as other Spanish Red Cross projects and activities on livelihood, health promotion and reconstruction of houses, schools and health facilities. He also visited the International Federation’s camp in Meulaboh.
Prior to his arrival in Meulaboh, Suárez del Toro was updated on the tsunami operations by PMI Secretary General Iyang D. Sukandar, the head of the International Federation’s delegation in Indonesia, Ole Johan Hauge, and the Spanish Red Cross country representative, Gustavo Domato.
The President hailed the close coordination between the PMI, the Federation, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and partner National Societies working in the tsunami operations, saying that everyone is doing a great job, thus contributing to the overall accomplishments of the Movement for the past six months, and advancing the various rehabilitation projects for the affected families.
“As President of the Federation, I feel proud and happy that we have given a good response to the people from the beginning,” he added. “The work has just begun. The challenge of recovery for the people is much greater. We need to continue to work together as a Movement to accomplish our common mission of serving the most vulnerable when they need it most.”
Since the tsunami struck, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement spearheaded locally by PMI, with the full support from the International Federation and 26 partner National Societies, has served some 493,760 people with distributions of various food and non-food items and more than 150,000 others with clean water supply and basic health care.
The PMI volunteers have likewise led the recovery operations for some 46,000 bodies from various devastated areas.
The recovery and rehabilitation phase, amounting to US$ 600 million, outlined in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed with the Indonesian government, will focus on health and care, recovery, economy and livelihood, disaster management, organizational development, water and sanitation, rehabilitation and reconstruction.
Suárez del Toro thanked all the donors who had to contributed to the Movement’s work. “We owe it to our donors to show them how we work in the field and where their donations go. Transparency and accountability to our stakeholders have always been vital factors in making the Movement what it is today in achieving the power of humanity."