SurfAid completes major tsunami recovery work

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade works with a range of non-government organisations and partners to advance the impact and reach of aid. One of our partners is SurfAid, which receives funding from the New Zealand Aid Programme to carry out its mission to improve the health, well-being and self-reliance of people living in isolated regions connected to us through surfing. After an intense year of work, SurfAid has completed the major projects of its Tsunami Recovery Program in the Mentawai Islands following the 25 October 2010 disaster. Here, SurfAid Program Director Alan Rogerson reflects on 2011.

After our initial Emergency Response, seven recovery projects ran simultaneously across three islands, three of which were implemented by SurfAid partners. The projects were Post-disaster Disease Prevention and Treatment, Clean Water, Hygiene Promotion, Psychosocial Support, Mother and Child Health, Emergency Preparedness and Temporary Shelter.

Prior to the tsunami, we were implementing two separate projects, Community-based Health and Clean Water. As soon as we realised the scale of destruction caused by the tsunami, we stepped up a much greater level of assistance to as many affected areas as possible. Luckily we received substantial support, almost immediately, from the New Zealand Aid Programme, as well as donations from corporates, individuals and foundations. This allowed us to set our sights high with regard to the am assistance we could provide. Following initial rapid assessment and emergency response, our focus was on providing health assistance, together with psycho-social support and temporary shelter, to communities most affected by the tsunami.

In early 2011 we added the other components, starting with Emergency Preparedness and Clean Water, and then we progressed to Mother and Child Health and Hygiene Promotion. This work took us to 30 communities in South Pagai, 10 in North Pagai and a further six in South Sipora.
We realised early in the piece that we would not be able to meet the requirements of the communities, or the expectations of our supporters, using only our own resources. So we developed collaborative relationships with partner organisations which complemented our areas of expertise and help us meet our overall objectives.

It is a humbling experience, and a great privilege, to have had the opportunity to work with these communities in the Mentawai, and help them to help themselves. They did not wait for hand-outs. Instead they stepped up and assumed responsibility for addressing their own problems. We have reached the end of our Tsunami Recovery Program but the long-term recovery will go on in the Mentawai for many, many years to come. SurfAid will still be there, working at community level, building capacity in the local government and trying to improve the health, wellbeing and prospects of the people of the Mentawai.

It’s not possible for the people in individual communities to thank donors and supporters in person, so it falls on us to do it on their behalf. The tsunami happened in our backyard and it was fortunate we had staff on the ground, logistics in place and the capacity to respond. But we were only able to do this because of the support we received from our donors and supporters. So “thank you” on behalf of the 63 communities we’ve assisted during this year-long recovery work.

Thank you, in advance, for the assistance that will allow us to continue with the activities we have planned for the next few years. With New Zealand Aid Programme support, we continue to work on Clean Water and Sanitation projects in the Mentawai; we are implementing an Emergency Preparedness Program in the Mentawai, Telo and Banyak islands; and we are implementing our ongoing Health Program on the island of Nias.

For communities directly affected by the Mentawai tsunami, we are also planning Mother and Child Health, Livelihoods and Sanitation programs in 2012, and in the second half of this year we will commence to roll out another phase of the Malaria Free Mentawai Program in the Mentawai.

To find out more about our partner SurfAid please visit their website.

Back to January 2012 Development stories