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Reconstruction in Aceh

3 Years On: Reconstruction and Resettlement in Aceh after the Tsunami


This film presents the views and experiences of representatives from NGOs working in Aceh on tsunami reconstruction in 2007. By this stage the majority of reconstruction and resettlement of residents of Aceh has taken place or was close to completion. The interviews offer reflections on the completion of this process and problems that still need to be overcome.

Reconstruction and Resettlement in Aceh

After a few months, people started to go back. They realised that wandering around was no solution for their grief. At daytime people put up tents and started to clean up. More and more they began to disregard the order to vacate the old villages and restart somewhere else. There was no other place, anyhow. People in Aceh had always been at risk. Earthquakes were a fact of life. The places to live were once chosen with care. A swamp area had been a bad place, a dry area and sandy area a good place The Acehnese people had also lived with conflict. There was a constant danger of getting caught in the cross-fire, of being interrogated or being taken an unknown place. Fear was a daily companion and even in the emergency situation after the tsunami it remained present. This is the reason why many people refused to move emergency barracks, places which the army had previously used to hold detained villagers.

When UN-Habitat asked communities in Aceh to name their priority needs, the answer was always the same: houses. Even though clean water was often missing, people insisted that the only way to begin was to start building homes. Strong homes, secure homes, brick homes. No flimsy shelters, but homes with windows, doors and locks.

For people in Aceh, starting over in the old place seemed to be impossible. However, six months after the tsunami they gave it a try, not knowing whether international promises for aid would stand and if national negotiations for peace would be successful. They went home in large numbers, by July 2005, 75% of all displaced people in Aceh had returned to their villages and reclaimed their homes. Reconstruction could now start.

Extracts from Anchoring Homes: UN-Habitat’s People’s Process in Aceh and Nias after the Tsunami. UN-Habitat 2007
Reproduced with permission

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creative commons logo (CC) BY-NC-ND This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Photo Gallery

Click on the image above to see more photographs. © S L James 2008.

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Producer / Director: S L James


Bruno Dercon
UN Habitat

Azwar Hasan
Forum Bandun Aceh

Heru Prasetyo
Aceh and Nias Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency (BRR)

Binod Shrestha
UN Habitat

Filmed: 2007

Last updated Jun 09, 2011