Lampuuk beach near the city of Banda Aceh in northern Sumatra, Indonesia, in Dec 2006, 2 years after the tsunami. The stigmas left by the natural disaster are still very visible in this part of Aceh's province. Here: trees, houses, nothing has resisted to the power of the waves...except for the mosque...
Around 13000 fishing boats have been destroyed during the tsunami. End of December 2006, less than 4000 have been rebuilt. A lot of fishermen can't get back to work still.
Among all the reconstruction projects led by major NGOs are small scale ones like the traditional fishing boat workshop led by the NGO Triangle. Here locals are trained by masters to build boats. A new job for a new life, and a way to take part actively in the reconstruction process. Lampulo, Aceh Besar, Indonesia, Dec 2006.
A new boat for a new beginning. This boat built in the Triangle NGO's workshop will soon find a new owner in Sabang, an island near by. Before the tsunami most fishermen were renting their boat, for those receiving one they will now own it. Banda Aceh, Indonesia, 2006.
Ulee Lheue, a district in Banda Aceh. Here the tsunami has taken the life of the ¾ of the neighbourhood and 2 years after the disaster an important part of the land plots are still under water. Identification is complicated, administration is slow and corruption is still around: the reconstruction process is taking much more time than expected.
This inhabitant of Ulee Lheue's district in Banda Aceh is among the 500 000 Indonesians that have lost their roof during the disaster. He is complaining about the NGO that was in charged of rebuilding his house. Like most of his neighbours he has decided to rebuild his house himself with the money given by the government.
A boy is walking passed temporary shelter houses. End of 2006, his family and 15000 other ones are still waiting for a permanent house. District of Lamdingin, Banda Aceh, Dec 2006.
Life in a village set with temporary shelter houses. End of 2006, another 60 000 houses need to be built. While donators are asking for results, refugees are waiting. Ulee Lheue, Banda Aceh, Dec 2006.
Life goes on…Dila is 6 years old, she lives with her family in a refugee camp near Banda Aceh's stadium. In these shacks, about 10 families have to cohabit while waiting for a house allocation. Each of them live in 15 m² without any intimacy.
"Build back better". If this NGO is rebuilding houses with para-seismic standards and a proper drain system, it's not always the case among organisations involved in the house reconstruction enterprise. Out of the 50 000 houses rebuilt at the end of 2006, 10 000 are not up to Indonesian standards and are already starting to fall into decay.
One of the reasons of the reconstruction's slowness is the shortage of materials in the province. NGOs must import some materials from other parts of Indonesia, or even often from another country. Delays are getting longer, expenses rise up, and people are waiting. Atlas's building site, Lho'Nga district, Aceh Besar.
For many Acehnese affected by the tsunami, construction jobs represent a real source of income and a chance to learn a new job. In 2 years the NGH Atlas has employed around 600 Indonesians, among them are builders, carpenters, electricians... Lho'Nga district, Aceh Besar, Indonesia, 2006.
"Back to school, back to normal life". It will take years before the trauma left by the the tsunami and the independence war that isolated Aceh for 30 years vanish, but for this kid and for many other Acehenese a new life has yet started. Lho'Nga district, Aceh Besar, Indonesia, 2006.
If most of the humanitarian organisations based their action in Banda Aceh and around, some other parts of the province are still very isolated. For these Acehnese the road to "normal life" will take even longer.
The tsunami hasn't only affected people materially. It has left among many of them a real fear of water. For these orphan kids the "mental reconstruction" starts with a bus trip to the only swimming pool left in Banda Aceh. Today like any other day, the local NGO "AWS" (Aceh Water Sports) picks few of them up from Punge Blang Cut a devastated neighborhood of the city.
Learning to swim again, first on the ground, latter in the water. Instructors, trained by the American Red Cross, are locals also affected by the tsunami. Army camp's swimming pool, Banda Aceh, Indonesia.
These kids are between 6 and 14 years old. If the younger ones seem to "heal" faster, being in the water is still very hard among the elders. Army camp's swimming pool, Banda Aceh, Indonesia.
Since the beginning of its action in February 2006, the local organization AWS has noticed a real evolution in the kid's fear towards water, however some looks show stigmas of a trauma not yet gone. Army camp's swimming pool, Banda Aceh, Indonesia.
Different place, different situation. A few kilometres away from Banda Aceh a group of kids is playing insouciantly in the water, like they've always have.
In this area strongly hit by the tsunami people slowly start to go back to the beach. We come here to walk on the sand, to play football or volleyball, to get close to the water again, this element that 2 years ago changed the life of many. Ulee Lheue, Banda Aceh, Dec 2006
"Remember that we all must die". These few words written on the walls of this destroyed house in Ulee Lheue illustrate quite well the way Acehnese and more generally Indonesians deal with life and death. To accept things with fatality and to move on…Banda Aceh, Indonesia, Dec 2006.
The 26th of December 2006 marks the 2nd anniversary of the tsunami. On this day of remembering, Maidin, a fireman from Banda Aceh, takes me to his old family house. He has lost 17 family members in the disaster. He is calm. He tells me that life goes on…his wife will give birth soon and in about a year it will be time to move back to this house, to raise a new family…
June 2008, Lampuuk beach near Banda Aceh in northern Sumatra, Indonesia. 1 year ½ after my last visit the vegetation has grown and the mosque is now entirely rebuilt. While most of the NGOs are gone with the international community focusing in another part of the world, Acehnese continue to rebuild their province. If the peace founding added to the post tsunami dynamic are a real chance for Aceh, the balance is still fragile with conflicts and corruption problems being hard to solve. Mother Nature, which can destroy all these efforts from one day to the other, will also play a key role in Acehnese's future…Inch'Allah.