20 January 2005 Even as relief distribution improves in Indonesia, the region most ravaged by last month's Indian Ocean tsunami, a particularly heavy rainy season is worsening conditions in temporary settlements and hampering the delivery of supplies, especially by road, the United Nations reported today.
The world body, which is coordinating the massive global response to the disaster which left at least 165,000 people dead, more than half a million more injured and up to 5 million others in need of basic services and at risk of deadly epidemics in a dozen Indian Ocean countries, said many of the health care facilities north of Meulaboh, a particularly hard-hit area, were not functioning.
Because of intensified concern over sanitation conditions for displaced persons in the area, soap and hygiene kits are now being distributed along with food, while four water-processing units have arrived in Meulaboh, in Aceh province, to provide clean water to hospitals and settlements.
Meanwhile, mental health experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) fear that psychological trauma among the tsunami victims is more widespread than initially believed and the agency has begun to coordinate the appropriate training of community workers.
The UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) has launched a finance facility to accumulate funds for long-term reconstruction efforts in the affected countries.
For its part the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is distributing some 5,000 prayer shawls to Acehnese women affected by the tsunami for tomorrow's Muslim holy day of Eid Al-Adha.
The UN Development Programme (UNDP) had scaled up its plans to hire locals in Aceh to remove debris while creating employment opportunities for up to 3,000 people, from an initial 300, over the next six months. The agency has also provided 17 units of heavy equipment and 60 crew members to clear debris and bodies from the worst-hit areas.
Since the tsunami struck in Indonesia on 26 December, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has delivered over 4,000 tons of food to 330,000 people in Banda Aceh, the provincial capital. It has also provided eight tons of medical supplies while the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has distributed information on the disease in emergency settings and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has delivered over 600 reproductive health kits.