When the many hundreds of thousands were first left homeless after the tsunami, the Red Cross /Crescent provided tents for the tsunami refugees. Soon thereafter, the local government built barracks, wooden structures which can house 20-30 joint families. (See example of a barracks in photo below.)

Various international agencies also provided temporary housing, basically wooden houses built on steel frames, elevated about 3 feet off the ground.

As a follow-up to the above housing initiatives, various international agencies and NGOs then began building permanent housing, brick and concrete structures of various architectural plans and layouts.

As to the status of this permanent housing, two years after the tsunami very few local residents have yet to move into these houses.

Among other reasons, these newly constructed houses are still lacking water, sewage, or electricity--or all three!

Even worse, while money donated to the government may have built a school or a medical facility, in some cases these too are still sitting empty because the local government has been so slow to act.

To quote a study on the reconstruction effort, funded by The Asia Foundation, “One financial problem still found was that of coordination among service providers, who still lacked any common standards. The efforts of the Aceh-Nias Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency (BRR) by opening representative offices in the localities, have still not overcome these coordination problems.

“[Regarding] construction of houses, roads, bridges, public facilities and government offices. In some places, evacuees who have been living in barracks have returned to their homes. The level of infrastructure provided in a given residential location depends greatly on the institution performing the construction; no minimum standards were found for the provision of support infrastructure that could serve a reference for construction contractors. The only standard is one that provides a reference for the minimum floor space of houses for tsunami victims.

“Some housing constructed has been equipped with facilities such as electricity, clean water and septic tanks…The level of infrastructure provided in a given location depends greatly on the institution performing the construction; there are no minimum standards.” (Excerpt from the second Aceh Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Appraisal Report.)

To describe the living conditions of many still in their temporary housing, we again quote The Asia Foundation study, “Victims still living in barracks have great difficulty obtaining clean water. Most barrack premises do not meet health standards (muddy areas, standing water, inadequate garbage containers and cracked septic tanks). ...The poor sanitation in the barrack areas is even worse during the rainy season.

“Generally, residents feel that the housing construction and infrastructure is inadequate in terms of both quality and quantity. In some places, this dissatisfaction of services has taken the form of protests, such as refusal to occupy the houses.” (Excerpt from second Aceh Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Appraisal Report.)

By far the majority of tsunami refugees are still living in either barracks or temporary wooden houses, many of whom receive subsidized rice etc. Not only do they not want to shift into the non-complete “permanent housing” (and therefore possibly be without water/sewage etc.) they also don’t have any work or livelihood to be able to pay for their own food or their own electricity once they have their own house. And so many have refused to move into the new houses, leaving some of the NGOs and larger aid agencies faced with the dilemma of what to do at this point.

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