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IUF Emergency Volunteer Team at Work in Aceh

Posted to the IUF website 17-Jan-2005

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The IUF Indonesia volunteer team is now working with plantation workers and their families in and around the destroyed city of Meulaboh in Indonesia's Aceh province. The group - which has been expanded to include three medical doctors and a paramedic - arrived in Meulaboh, district capital of Aceh Barat, on January 15 and has set up a union crisis center. Formerly home to some 40,000 people, mostly plantation workers and fisherfolk and their families, Meulaboh is 150 kilometers from the center of the December 26 earthquake. Around one third of the city's former inhabitants are estimated to have died in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami which completely devastated the city.

The team has now assessed the situation on three palm oil plantations, two belonging to the state-owned PTPN1 group and the private, Belgian-owned Socfindo plantation. At least 11 workers from the first group of plantations were killed and 5 are missing. As a consequence of the central government's war against the Aceh separatists, many workers from these plantations were living in Meulaboh rather on plantation housing from which they had been moved. On the Socfindo plantation some 300 workers' homes were destroyed. Contract plantation workers are being denied access to the emergency clinic which has been established for direct company employees.

The IUF team - the only relief group in the area which is working independently of the Indonesian military - has been providing medicine and medical care to the workers and their families, who are suffering from trauma and are at risk of contracting tetanus and cholera. Some children in the affected area have died from stress and trauma following the disasters. One of the group's first actions was to vaccinate against tetanus the volunteer relief teams which arrived earlier and have already been working in the area. The group has also set up a portable water sanitation unit as the city's water supply system was completely destroyed. The IUF team has identified clean water and medical care as urgent priorities in the area - medicine has been delivered but cannot be adequately administered. A second IUF team is scheduled to arrive on January 23.