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Last Updated: Friday, 18 February, 2005, 15:45 GMT
Overview: Aceh after the tsunami
An Acehnese man smokes a cigarette near a house on which a fishing boat landed after it was swept away by tsunami in Banda Aceh, 17 Feb
The scale of the destruction means Aceh will need long-term help
The 26 December Indian Ocean tsunami devastated large parts of the Indonesian province of Aceh, which was nearest to the earthquake's epicentre.

Thousands of people in Aceh still remain dependent on outside aid.

But amid the despair, there are signs the region is beginning to rebuild.

The BBC News website looks at some of the main issues currently facing the people of Aceh.

Finding the dead

According to the National Disaster Relief Co-ordination Agency, the number of people confirmed dead across Aceh and the adjacent province of Northern Sumatra is now more than 120,600.

Another 114,900 are missing, almost certainly dead.

Bodies are still being discovered in the rubble of buildings flattened by the tsunami.

But the situation is much better than in the first few weeks after the disaster, when bloated corpses could be seen littering the streets and washing up on Aceh's shorelines.

Officials now estimate that about a third of the population of the provincial capital Banda Aceh died in the tsunami. The proportion is likely to be much higher in some coastal villages.

Aid effort

In the immediate aftermath of the tsunami, criticism was voiced over delays in getting supplies to the most affected areas.

Australian soldiers clear drains in Banda Aceh
Foreign military personnel are gradually withdrawing

But overall the emergency phase of the relief effort has been hailed as a success by UN officials.

Health officials had feared large outbreaks of disease, which did not materialise.

And most survivors now have access to adequate food and water supplies, aid workers say - although the UN estimates that about 790,000 people are still unable to provide food for themselves.

Deliveries of emergency aid are now drawing to an end, and many of the foreign military personnel who were drafted into the region in early January have now left.

Relief workers are starting to look at more long-term needs for the Acehnese people, such as rebuilding homes and schools, and providing financial support for families who took in survivors.

Most experts predict it will take at least five years for Aceh to fully recover, and the UN has warned that more funds will be needed for longer-term reconstruction efforts.

Refugees

Hundreds of thousands of tsunami survivors have now abandoned their destroyed homes to live in makeshift refugee camps or with relatives.

But the government has begun to look at more long-term solutions, and has started moving people into newly built wooden barracks where they may end up living for several years.

Some victims remain sceptical of the move, fearing that the government will use the camps to deny Acehnese rebels access to the population - as they have done in the past.

Instead many survivors have chosen to return to their damaged homes and try to rebuild.

Efforts to reunite people with their loved ones are still continuing. Weeks on from the disaster, families are still being reunited.

Economy

According to the Indonesian government, the damage and losses from the tsunami amount to 2% of Indonesia's GDP, and more than 97% of Aceh's GDP.

The total cost of rebuilding is estimated at $4.5bn.

Construction worker builds a new shelter for refugees, 17 Feb
The government is building semi-permanent shelters for refugees

Despite the devastation, some businesses are now gradually reopening, and hotels and cafes are bringing in revenue by catering for foreign aid workers.

But unemployment remains high, and hundreds of people are making their living picking through the debris looking for any usable items.

The United Nations plans to hire thousands of survivors, many of them refugee camp residents, to clear the streets and help in the rebuilding effort.

Tsunami defence

Indonesia has held discussions with other nations affected by the tsunami to establish an early warning system to help prevent future disasters on this scale.

There have also been proposals to move many coastal villages at least 2km (1.25 miles) inland, and grow trees and mangroves near the sea to help absorb any influx of water.

Malaysian planners are currently in discussion with officials in Banda Aceh about the construction of a sea wall to protect the city.

Separatist conflict

The Achenese rebel group Gam (Free Aceh Movement) has been waging a separatist campaign in the region for nearly 30 years.

Because of the continuing violence, which has claimed more than 13,000 lives, the region has spent the last few years largely cut off from outside influences. The government even imposed martial law between May 2003 and May 2004.

In the aftermath of the tsunami, both sides agreed to an informal ceasefire to ensure aid reached affected regions.

Government ministers went to Finland in late January to meet Gam's exiled leaders, who now live in Sweden.

The two sides failed to reach any agreement at the talks, but they are due to meet again on Monday for a second round of negotiations.




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