Thursday, May 24, 2007

Apa Kabar de Banda Aceh? What's happenin' in Banda Aceh?

First, news near and dear to my heart – more restless natives storming CRS because their houses are not yet finished. CRS agreed in February of last year to build 286 houses. Rob came in during July and now 165 houses have been built. What is so upsetting is that the problem isn’t with the NGOs, as many villagers feel it is. It is with these local contractors who are doing substandard work and running off with funding. Certainly, not all contractors here are bad, but there sure seem to be a bunch of bad apples spoiling the bushel. So, this story was reported in the local Bahasa Indonesia newspaper:

Banda Aceh - Dozenz of tsunami victims from Rukoh village, Syiah Kuala Sub-district, Banda Aceh, Mon (14/5), rallied at Catholic Relief Service (CRS) office demanding to finish the reconstruction of their houses based on the agreement made between both parties. According to them, based on an MoU signed on 23 Feb 2006, CRS is going to build 286 houses, but until yesterday, only 165 houses that have been done and have been occupied by beneficiaries. "They promised to build 286 houses, but they had only built 165 and we never been told by them when the rest of those houses are going to be built so that we could not receive the offers to build houses from other NGOs," said Zulbahar while showing a photocopy of MoU signed by Field Officer Director of CRS, Scoot Campbell. Meanwhile, as response, CRS's Communication Development Advisor, Davod Shield confirmed that MoU and adding that after been verified, only 165 houses that are in accordance with CRS criteria. Regarding the CRS's criteria, David explained that CRS only build houses that were destroyed by tsunami and those houses were the main houses. "We only build main houses and CRS will not build houses which were not the main houses, but we will help to find another donor," said David.

CRS is already retrofitting more than 200 houses that were of poor quality and built before Rob got to the country. CARE, a well known NGO also working here is going to have to rebuild or retrofit more than 700 houses. The extremely painful thing about this is that these houses are already inhabited. A good friend of ours has accepted the position as infrastructure manager since that position has been vacant for a while (Because of this? One can only speculate) and I fear for his personal safety when he starts moving people out of their new homes.

Muslim Aid and Asian Development Bank are facing this same situation with more than 1500 houses. Around 20,000 houses have been built in this area since the tsunami and that leaves a bit more than 10% of houses are of substandard quality.

A Fable of the Country Elephant and the City Water Buffalo

Banda Aceh - Residents of Banda Aceh, yesterday afternoon (15/5), were surprised by the presence of a buffalo in downtown and created panic among traffic users due to it suddenly running amok. Personnel of Public Order Police (Satpol PP) assisted by traffic police tried to catch that buffalo but it was very difficult as it keep on running and seized everybody this buffalo saw. A police officer who tried to catch it was also attacked by it and a man, Muzakir (40) was hospitalized due to his backbone was broken by it. The traffic at Jalan Tgk daud Beureueh was jammed for about an hour because of it. Finally that running amok buffalo succed to be caught after a Satpol PP car collide their car to it and then police tied it up.

Bad Tides

Indonesia in general has had horrible high tides and strong winds this past month. Everyone is cautioned against swimming – the last time we were at the beach they looked like 3 meter waves on average with really strong current.

Tragically, a local teenager was taking a photograph of the sea and got swept away by a 7 meter wave, drowning.

In Meulaboh, about a 10 hour drive down the coast (if the one road is not washed out or ridden with baksheesh bandits or angry villagers detaining NGO vehicles to get their demands met), the situation seems to be worse than here in Banda Aceh. Newly built houses and refugee camps are flooded (only 750 out of 4000 people were able to stay in one refugee camp.)

Beef. It's What's for Dinner.

There I am! Backlit in front of the window making an ominous, Darth Vader like presence. This is from the Bird Flu seminar. Which, if you read the newsfeeds to the right of this post any time soon, you will see in the past WEEK we have had one death from H5N1 down in Melaboh (on Sumatra) of a 26 year old pregnant lady (ate bad chickens) and a five year old on Java. Vietnam is reporting it's first case since 2005 and 10,000 chickens had to be culled in Pakistan because of infection.

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