The Indonesian province of Aceh has made remarkable progress in rebuilding since the devastating tsunami six years ago but faces major challenges in cutting poverty and inequality and reducing the impact of future disasters, a United Nations-backed report warns.
Aceh, one of the worst hit places in 11 countries ravaged by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed 230,000 people overall and caused billions of dollars in damage, has made great strides in restoring community infrastructure and services and empowering locals in a wide range of sectors, according to the province’s first ever human development report commissioned by the local government in cooperation with the UN Development Programme (UNDP).
“The achievements in Aceh since the tsunami go beyond anything imaginable six years ago,” UNDP Deputy Country Director Stephen Rodriques says. “Challenges remain for the province, including the need to resuscitate the economy to generate productive jobs, improve the quality and efficiency of public services and bring those services to the poor and disadvantaged.”
Reducing poverty, improving security, reducing the impact of future natural disasters, reversing the downward trend in women’s well-being and redressing inequalities in less developed areas top the province’s list of major challenges, the 2010 Aceh Human Development Report stresses.
Life expectancy has increased by one year from 67 to 68 since 2002 and the incidence of poverty has declined to 22 per cent from a peak of 30 per cent in 2002, but this remains well above the 14 per cent for Indonesia as a whole.
Although Aceh’s students receive an average of 8.6 years of schooling compared with a national average of 7.6 years, improvements are needed in the quality of education as well as expanded vocational training to help young people find jobs, the report notes.
“The government is fully committed to advance basic sectors such as education and health, and also push areas of development where Aceh is still lagging behind,” Province Secretary T. Setia Bud says. “Another issue is to ensure development does not leave behind the poor, vulnerable and those living in remote areas where access is difficult.”
The report advocates six goals to enhance the province’s human development: channelling funds and delegating authority for empowerment; spreading benefits to include social groups that may be overlooked; strengthening health and education services; creating new livelihood and employment opportunities; building measures to reduce future disaster impact on forestry, agriculture and fisheries; and channelling resources towards advancing human development.