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Special Report on UNFPA Assistance Six Months After the Tsunami

Story and photos by William A. Ryan


Staff from NGO Flower Aceh unload hygiene kits donated by Sweden for distribution at Seumeurenung barracks.


Farjiati shows off contents of hygiene kit she has just received.


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Hygiene Kits

A simple blue bag packed with basic necessities for keeping clean and maintaining some dignity—soap, underwear, sanitary supplies, a head covering cloth and a prayer mat—has proven enormously popular among women who survived the tsunami. UNFPA started assembling and distributing the kits in January, working with a wide range of relief groups, and demand for them remains high. To date, some 230,000 women's kits have been given to in Aceh and Nias (a nearby island that was devastated by a second massive earthquake in March), along with a smaller number of hygiene kits for men.

At the Seumeurenung barracks in Sibreh, Aceh Besar subdistrict, the NGO Flower Aceh has organized an assembly of women. As their names are read from a list, each comes forward to receive a hygiene kit.

Fajriati, 25, is happy to get her kit. She has been living in the barracks for two months with her husband, two sons and a surviving nephew. They came from a fishing village in Peukan Bada that was almost completely wiped out—one in twenty survived. “Everyone ran into the street shouting, ‘Water! Water!',” Fariati says. She grabbed the baby and ran. Miraculously, they got a lift in a car, which broke down, and then in a second car. Strangers in another village gave the family shelter before they came to stay with relatives in Sibreh and then moved to a camp. She later learned that her parents, sisters and brothers had all been killed.

“We had nothing—no food or clothes for the first month. The baby ate only bananas and got sick, a high fever,” she recalls.

Life in the barracks is better and relief is more substantive now, but Fariati says the lack of anything to do gives her stress. She wants to resume her past business selling clothes and furniture from a small kiosk, but lacks start-up capital.

Two weeks ago, she returned to her hometown to attend a funeral. “There is nothing left there,” she says. “There are barracks but I cannot stay there with my baby, and it is too traumatic to be there.” She plans to return when she is ready emotionally and there is a home for her family.

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