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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 February, 2005, 09:12 GMT
Aceh aid operation changes gear
Jakfar, aged 41, cleans up debris from his damaged house in Keudah village, Banda Aceh, 7 Feb
The clean-up operation is continuing along the damaged coastline
The aid operation in tsunami-ravaged Aceh is moving into a second phase, as rescue workers begin to look at ways of providing long-term support.

"The peak of the emergency operation is behind us," said Joel Boutroue from the UN. "The difficult part starts now."

Six weeks on from the disaster, aid workers are focusing on rebuilding and returning people to their former homes.

More than 400,000 people were left homeless in Aceh as a result of December's earthquake and tsunami.

At least 225,000 others are dead or missing.

The UN estimates that governments have so far only donated a third of the aid they pledged to tsunami-hit nations.

The organisation has warned that it needs more funds for long-term reconstruction efforts.

"This is our key message to government donors: Please convert your pledges into hard cash in the bank," said Margareta Wahlstrom, special envoy to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

"It's only cash in the bank that makes it possible to do work on the ground," she said.

'Less visible'

The UN and other aid agencies are currently holding talks with the Indonesian government to discuss the next phase of rebuilding Aceh.

Gas-rich province on the north-western tip of Sumatra
Higher percentage of Muslims than other parts of Indonesia
Gam rebels have fought decades-long separatist campaign
Internationally brokered peace deal made in Dec 2002 but collapsed in May 2003
Year-long military crackdown weakened Gam, but failed to capture senior members

This will involve the return of displaced people to their home areas, the building of more relocation centres, and financial support for families who took in survivors, said UN deputy humanitarian co-ordinator Joel Boutroue.

"In this phase, we will probably be less visible, less high-profile than in the first six weeks," he told Reuters news agency, although he added that international aid was still very much needed behind the scenes.

"The key is to put the provincial authorities, the district authorities and the Acehnese as a whole in the driving seat," he said.

But two US-based human rights groups have voiced concerns that Indonesia's military may be able to exploit the post-tsunami aid effort to tighten their control over Achenese civilians.

Human Rights Watch and Human Rights First have urged Jakarta to reduce military involvement in the relocation of the homeless to semi-permanent camps.

They fear that if the camps are guarded by the military, they will become isolated ghettos in a province still suffering from a low-level campaign between the army and separatist rebels.

"In the context of the war in Aceh, a military presence at the camps can be a form of intimidation and abusive control," said Neil Hicks, director of International Programmes at Human Rights First.

"Although the military has played a sometimes welcome role in the emergency phase after the tsunami, their involvement in the relocations should be minimised, and civilian agencies alone should run the camps," he said.


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