Aceh post-tsunami rebuilding impressive, but poverty blights landscape

Dec 22, 2010

The people of Aceh have achieved remarkable
progress in rebuilding their communities.
(Photo: UNDP)
Aceh – The people of Indonesia’s province of Aceh have achieved remarkable progress in rebuilding their communities following the devastating impact of the 2004 tsunami, but similar advances in cutting poverty and inequality remain elusive, according to a new report.

Since the Indian Ocean tsunami six years ago, the population of Aceh, one of the worst hit locations in the 11 affected countries of the region, has made great strides in restoring community infrastructure and services and empowering locals in a wide range of sectors, says the province’s first ever human development report, launched in Jakarta today.

Reducing poverty, improving security, reducing the impact of future natural disasters, reversing the downward trend in women’s well-being and redressing inequalities in less developed areas top the province’s list of major challenges, says the 2010 Aceh Human Development Report.

“The achievements in Aceh since the tsunami go beyond anything imaginable six years ago,” said Stephen Rodriques, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Deputy Country Director.

“Challenges remain for the province, including the need to resuscitate the economy to generate productive jobs, improve the quality and efficiency of public services and bring those services to the poor and disadvantaged.”

While life expectancy in Aceh has increased by one year from 67 to 68 since 2002, the incidence of poverty has declined to 22 percent from a peak of 30 percent in 2002, but remains well above the 14 percent for Indonesia as a whole.

Although Acehnese students receive an average of 8.6 years of schooling compared with a national average of 7.6 years, the report suggests that improvements are needed in the quality of education, and that expanded vocational training would help school leavers to find jobs.

“The government is fully committed to advance basic sectors such as education and health, and also push areas of development where Aceh is still lagging behind,” said Province Secretary T. Setia Bud, co-launching the report with UNDP.

“Another issue to be addressed is to make sure development does not leave behind the poor, vulnerable and those living in remote areas where access is difficult.”

The report advocates six goals to further enhance the province’s human development: channeling funds and delegating authority for empowerment; spreading benefits to include social groups that may be overlooked; strengthening health and education services; creating new livelihood and employment opportunities; building measures to reduce future disaster impact on forestry, agricultural and fisheries sectors; ensuring resources are also channeled towards services that advance human development.

The report was commissioned by the Government of Aceh in cooperation with UNDP and Aceh’s Central Bureau of Statistics. Its 2008 data are the most recent available on the province’s human development.
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