Though OCHA offices already existed in Jakarta and Aceh, further deployments to support the in-country team were made by 28 December 2004, where OCHA spearheaded coordination on the ground in Aceh by immediately setting up coordination mechanisms with local government, the military and humanitarian actors. Within a week, it had established a HIC and soon after deployed a Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator to lead the response. On 6 January 2005, the UN launched a Flash Appeal for the tsunami, with an initial requirement of approximately US$ 373 million for Indonesia (Aceh).
On 26 March, the Government of Indonesia declared an end to the emergency operation phase, but a strong earthquake followed on 28 March, devastating Nias and Simeulue islands. UN Agencies responded immediately by temporarily diverting some resources from the ongoing tsunami response. OCHA deployed coordination and information management staff to both Nias and Simeulue within 12 hours of the earthquake to assist in setting up local emergency response coordination. Over 130,000 people were killed as a result of the initial tsunami and the earthquake of 28 March, with 35,000 more missing and approximately 550,000 internally displaced.
A joint UNDP/UNDG/OCHA mission in June 2005 recommended strengthening the UN’s coordination role in line with the Secretary-General’s reform proposals, and the Office of UN Recovery Coordinator for Aceh and Nias (UNORC) was established. To ensure strong leadership and coherent system-wide response to the transition, UNORC and Indonesia’s Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Agency (BRR) signed a Memorandum of Understanding on 30 November, formalising the relationship between the two.
OCHA’s key objectives in Indonesia were: to ensure the humanitarian needs of the tsunami-affected populations were met and their concerns addressed within the longer-term recovery/reconstruction process; to assist government institutions and civil society actors at targeted strategic sites to maintain and strengthen the coordination of activities, monitor humanitarian needs and effectively respond to those affected; ensure that the coordination of all stakeholders was successfully transferred to relevant government institutions and UN Agencies; and ensure that the identified humanitarian needs of tsunami affected populations were met during the first half of 2005, and that the transition towards full recovery was accelerated.
OCHA (and later UNORC) provided support to the HC in Jakarta and the Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator (and later UN Recovery Coordinator for Aceh and Nias) in Banda Aceh for coordination of the tsunami response and the post-tsunami recovery, as well as for public information and advocacy through deployment of surge staff. Coordination mechanisms were established in Banda Aceh, including creation of the UN Team, a local IASC meeting, convening of a Donor Round Table, weekly Open Humanitarian Briefings, and Sector Heads and sectoral working groups. OCHA/UNORC also supported coordination of the Humanitarian Common Services.
OCHA also established field offices in Meulaboh, Calang, Medan and Nias to strengthen coordination at the local level.Where a lead agency was not present, UNORC took the lead.
In June OCHA and IFRC initiated a temporary shelter working group to address the emerging problems and bottlenecks in this sector. Together with partners, it launched the Temporary Shelter Plan of Action to replace tents and other types of ad hoc shelters, and to repair and upgrade water and sanitation facilities. HIC Sumatra/UNMIS was able to immediately develop and disseminate a range of standard information products and later produced the Tsunami Recovery Status Report.
To assess gaps in the response to the immediate humanitarian needs of IDPs in various settlements, OCHA initiated a Transitional Settlement Monitoring Mechanism (TSMM) in July. Gaps were matched with resources through the monthly Humanitarian Action Fora (HAF) held in each of the affected districts of the province. HIC Sumatra provided support survey design, database and GIS support for this project, the data collection element of which was undertaken by the Norwegian Refugee Council.
In recognition of the unmet needs in Nias, UNORC increased capacity there with the deployment of two humanitarian affairs officers in September, as well as UNMIS GIS officers. The team strengthened sectoral as well as sub-district coordination, and consolidated baseline data and progress updates and information.
In response to the need for a comprehensive disaster management law, and risk reduction and preparedness strategy, OCHA Jakarta, with partners, supported the Coalition for Disaster Management Legislative Reform, through a number of seminars, media campaigns and advocacy efforts throughout the year. OCHA Jakarta coordinated the UN technical working group on disaster risk reduction by rolling out an emergency management training and contingency planning exercise in West Sumatra in collaboration with BAKORNAS PBP, the national coordinating agency for disaster management and refugees/IDPs, which took place in September.
Through sustained interaction with the government and the humanitarian community, the humanitarian needs of affected populations were kept on the agenda during the early recovery and continuing transitional periods.
However, the TEC found that, given the sheer number of actors (over 500 NGOs at one point), coordination was very difficult and not effective. The competition among actors on the ground, in particular competition for “clients” or affected populations, and the lack of incentive to coordinate since funds were abundant, led to duplication and confusion. In addition, actors focused on what was easily reachable, resulting in oversupply in Banda Aceh but undersupply in other areas such as Nias. Diverting resources to respond to the evolving immediate needs of IDPs was also a challenge, since some partners did not participate in the coordination mechanisms.
OCHA field presence was strengthened to provide support and coordination at the local level through the opening of offices in Aceh, Nias, Meulaboh, Calang and Simeleue. Sustained dialogue with local authorities and NGOs facilitated the resolution of overlaps and gaps. Information for planning and monitoring was collected by the HIC in its humanitarian common service role and shared with the humanitarian/recovery community. The challenge lay in ensuring the quality and accuracy of the data. The sheer number of actors involved, with pressure to deliver quickly, posed a challenge in generating a culture of information sharing.
The continued need to support the transitional coordination through UNORC required OCHA to maintain staff throughout 2005. The hand-over of OCHA’s coordination function in the field to governmental authorities and civil society actors, initially planned for mid-2005, was amended to a gradual phase-down from the end of 2005.
Phasing into full swing recovery and reconstruction has taken longer than anticipated, due to the scale of devastation, logistical challenges, limited availability of materials and continuing displacement and movement of survivors, as well as the fact that reconstruction had to take place from “ground zero” in many affected areas. Compelling humanitarian needs still persist.
OCHA Maldives, consisting of a small team of up to three people established in early January 2005, worked throughout the year in support of the RC/HC and UNCT in the aftermath of the tsunami. Beside its usual coordination functions, OCHA worked in partnership with the Managing Internally Displaced Persons (MIDP) Unit of the National Disaster Management Centre to respond to priorities, while supporting this newly-formed ministerial department.
Throughout the course of 2005, OCHA supported the RC/HC with coordination, advocacy, financial tracking and resource mobilisation, information management and advice on IDP issues. In addition to supporting these fundamental coordination mechanisms, OCHA supported the RC/HC Office and the UNCT on national disaster response and in the formulation of a medium-term transition/recovery strategy. The OCHA team worked diligently with UNICEF and UNFPA to ensure that IDP issues were fully addressed. It funded the registration of IDPs, the design of a database to manage IDP statistics, and the funding and training of three IDP Desk Officer positions.
The OCHA team established 15 IDP committees in the worst affected atolls, involving approximately 340 people from IDP and host communities. In addition, it established a Training of Trainers programme for all IDP committee members, with an emphasis on ensuring the appropriate use of Sphere standards for IDP shelters.
The OCHA office produced reports, analyses and recommendations, and advocated for critical policy considerations by MIDP, government ministries, the UN and other national and international partners. It engaged with Red Cross/Crescent Societies and the Care Society in IDP camp support activities, launching a pilot camp management service in Laamu Gan in October 2005.
OCHA Maldives also improved information flows on the humanitarian situation, including commissioning a TV documentary on IDP issues for TV Maldives for local broadcast in December 2005 and encouraging the production of monthly programmes for TV Maldives on shelter, water and sanitation, disaster management and reproductive health issues.
OCHA progressively withdrew international staff during 2005, while building the capacity of national staff with the intent of merging the OCHA functions into an integrated office under the leadership of the RC/HC. This happened successfully by the end of 2005, when OCHA closed its office in the Maldives.
In the days following the tsunami, the relief community in Myanmar sent urgent emergency support to affected communities, with the distribution of food and nonfood items to cover identified needs. This included food, water, health, shelter materials and sanitation relief to some 6,000 affected people.
In parallel to these emergency first-phase distributions, a series of assessment and verification missions were undertaken in the 10 days after the tsunami by humanitarian partners already working in Myanmar. Assessment missions went to the Rakhine Coast and the Ayeyarwady Delta on the southern coast (including the most populated islands of the Myeik archipelago and the islands off Kawthaung around Lampi Island) to determine the immediate impact of the tsunami. This first round of assessments was followed by joint evaluation missions aimed at assessing mid- to longer-term needs.
Tsunami damage was limited in Myanmar by comparison with other countries in the region. Relief agencies were able to provide swift assistance precisely because the number of victims was not overwhelming and basic stocks were available locally. Funds already made available by various donors and the agencies themselves after the onset of the disaster were sufficient to cover recovery activities until the end of 2005.
In addition to initial support provided by the Government of Myanmar, relief agencies carried out assistance in accordance with the planning outlined in the Indian Ocean Flash Appeal. The number of directly affected people identified by early assessments remained unchanged. Approximately 6,000 people were in need of emergency assistance. Priority needs were food and non-food items including clothing, essential drugs and drinking water. Epidemiological surveillance was also conducted. By the end of January 2005, acute food and non-food items needs were generally met and no major outbreak of disease was reported.
During the latter half of 2005, the tsunami response in Myanmar focused on medium- to longer-term needs. Shelter and infrastructure rehabilitation activities were implemented, including on water and sanitation systems, sometimes coupled with food for work support. Other programmes included support to education (supplies and school furniture) and child protection, as well as a generalised focus on malaria-reducing activities in affected townships. Organisations and agencies already involved in livelihood support, including the fishing industry, scaled up their activities to respond to the new needs.
In Myanmar, the emergency response to the tsunami disaster revealed a lack of disaster preparedness and inherent complications linked to coordination between international partners and national authorities. A lessons-learned exercise was undertaken to identify opportunities for a more efficient response in the future.