Ten years after the tsunami: building a bridge towards resilience in Indonesia

Disasters of every scale hit hardest in communities that are the least prepared and the poorest. In Kuala Bubon, like other coastal villages across Indonesia’s Aceh and Nias islands, most people rely on the sea and farming for their livelihoods.

When the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami hit on 26 December 2004, these communities had little or no emergency response capacity.

The effects were devastating. In Indonesia alone, the tsunami caused an estimated 167,736 deaths, with 37,063 missing persons, and left more than 500,000 people homeless. In Kuala Bubon, it took the lives of 221 people and swept away the entire village, leaving nothing but traumatised survivors.

The global humanitarian aid mobilised for the disaster was considered the largest ever, in terms of international pledges and donations, and it was the fastest financial response to disaster.

The event 10 years ago became a catalyst for a significant change in perspective on effective disaster response, implemented in the “build back better” approach. This approach is not merely about rebuilding houses and infrastructure, but also about rebuilding people’s lives and dignity.

It encourages communities, NGOs and governments to focus on ensuring people’s rights in the aftermath of a disaster – restoring livelihoods, providing psychosocial support, and building the capacity of local communities in disaster preparedness.

ACT Alliance members mobilised their resources to respond to the disaster with a total funding of more than US$50m, reflecting the extent of the global solidarity and giving hope to people across the affected region.