I remember the black and white images of utter devastation which followed the atomic bomb at Hiroshima.
The first time I saw Banda Aceh in Indonesia from the air — five months after it bore the brunt of the Indian Ocean tsunami — I felt I was looking at something similar, only in colour.
I was witnessing the aftermath of the awesome power of nature.
I recently returned to Banda Aceh in my role as Goodwill Ambassador for Unicef to see how £300,000 raised by Belfast Telegraph readers in the aftermath of the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 has been used by the charity.
On arrival in the city I was told of a strong earthquake, over 6 on the Richter scale, which had struck the Indonesian island of Sumbawa a few days before. It was a stark reminder that this is still a volatile area. The earthquake that caused the tsunami of five years ago had registered at 9.2.
One of the enduring images from my first visit in 2005 was a large generator ship that had been in the harbour at Banda Aceh. The massive wave had carried it two miles inland.
It is still there, in the town centre, still generating electricity and now something of a tourist attraction.
Yesterday I reported on how money raised by Belfast Telegraph readers had been used to re-build schools in Aceh to the benefit of hundreds of thousands of children.
But the much-needed funds were also used in the reconstruction of health centres and water sanitation systems wiped out by the tsunami.
What started as an emergency became a long-term development with an emphasis on education, health, and child protection. Across Aceh, before the tsunami, there were community health centres called Posyandus. Unicef has now developed these into what they call Posyandu Plus, which combines healthcare and day-care centres.
With the help of your donations Unicef has built 159 of these centres across Aceh, as well as on the island of Nias which was hit by the earthquake.
They provide a built-in home for a Unicef-trained midwife who provides healthcare for pregnant women and monthly check-ups for the under-fives.
Rita, who I met at Le Masen Posyandu Plus, told me people come by at all hours but she’s always happy to help. When parents bring their children to the day-care centre she teaches them about proper nutrition.
Our group also meet Misrina Huwaida and Bunga Mafirah who were born weeks after the tsunami.
Now approaching her fifth birthday, Misrina was delivered by a Russian doctor in a hospital tent. She and Bunga come to Posyandu Plus for health checks.
For a woman called Ainul Mariah, Unicef help has proved vital. Born without arms, she has overcome her severe disability to become mother to Zaidah, a healthy and active 18-month-old baby girl.
“Before this place was built I wouldn’t have been able to have a baby,” Ainul said.
Unicef’s work in Band Aceh is winding down. It is a good job, well done with your help. Thank you.
But we cannot be complacent. Today children are at risk in many other countries that don’t get the same kind of media attention as Banda Aceh. Their rights to basic survival are being denied and they need our help.
Unicef relies entirely on voluntary contributions to carry out emergency response and development work worldwide. To make a donation, telephone 0800 037 9797 or log on to www.unicef.org.uk/tsunami5-BT .
Tele readers’ £300,000... enough to build two schools
Cash raised by Belfast Telegraph readers was enough to cover the cost of two brand new schools for the children of Aceh.
Unicef UK raised £13m in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami, £300,000 of which came from a Telegraph appeal. The money helped the charity’s vital work rebuilding communities in Indonesia after the destruction wreaked by the tsunami.
The country’s Aceh region suffered the highest death toll of all 12 countries hit by the tsunami. Of the 230,000 people killed around the Indian Ocean, 167,000 died there.
Unicef funding was poured into health, education, sanitation and child protection. By the end of 2009 the charity had built an additional 121 schools, benefiting 58,677 children. It cost Unicef £137,000 to build each of these earthquake-resistant schools — meaning the Telegraph tsunami appeal paid for the equivalent of two new schools.
Every donation, regardless of size, made a huge difference to the recovery effort. A £6.50 donation paid for a family water kit containing water containers, soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes and water purification tablets.
A ‘Back to School’ kit, containing enough supplies for 40 students and one teacher to set up an ad hoc classroom, was bought with £34.
A £175 donation bought a ‘School in a Box’ kit containing supplies for 80 students and basic teaching resources. And £400 paid for a large tent to be used as a temporary school or health centre.