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Heart-wrenching greeting for Aussie Aid Workers

Indonesians are greeting Australian aid workers and defence personnel to the devastated province of Aceh with the phrase "Indonesia menangis", meaning "Indonesia cries". It has become a slogan to the Indonesian people despite their strained relations in the past with the Acehnese.

"That's what you hear on the news, the TV, on the radio and even on the street," Caritas Australia aid worker Louise Crowe said. "It's become a slogan which really gets to you."

Caritas Australia's latest addition to its relief effort in Indonesia is the placement of aid worker Louise Crowe in Medan, the capital of North Sumatra. Ms Crowe's role is to join Caritas' strategic assessments of the short and long-term needs of those affected by the disaster.

The Australian reports Ms Crowe is one of dozens of international aid workers struggling with Indonesian bureaucracy and cattle-blocked airport runways to get medicine, food, water and shelter to the provincial capital Banda Aceh and the nearby community.

The biggest problems were communication and tracking down isolated communities of refugees before they died of starvation and disease, the Medan-based aid worker said. The true death toll is still unknown.

"We had a report come in yesterday there were another 20,000 bodies that needed to be collected," she said. "It's becoming a terrible health problem."

However there have been triumphs. The Australian Army yesterday finished installing a water-purification unit which will supply 480,000 litres of clean water every day.

A plane load of supplies from Oxfam landed in Medan, northeastern Sumatra, and was trucked to Banda Aceh yesterday.

And in Sri Lanka, one aid kitchen supplied two meals a day to 2500 people.

Oxfam also is developing "baby packs" for pregnant women and mothers with babies and 10,000 "hygiene kits" will be distributed over the next few days.

Louise Crowe is keeping an online diary of her experience in Indonesia. It offers a unique and moving insight into the lives of those affected by this diaster and those who are seeking to help them rebuild their lives.


Heart-wrenching greeting for Aussies (The Australian 6/1/05)

Caritas Australia | Caritas Australia Asian Eathquake/Tsunami Appeal

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7 Jan 2005