IOM helps Nias people get home

Sunday, May 29, 2005
By nias

Sunday, May 29, 2005

The March 28 earthquake on Nias, off the western coast of Sumatra, devastated the island and its residents' lives, killing about 2,000 people and injuring hundreds of others.

Dozens of international aid organizations, non-governmental organizations and government institutions working to recover Aceh responded immediately, sending emergency teams to Nias, and donors channeled fresh funds toward new disaster relief efforts for the quake victims, including evacuating those with major injuries to Medan hospitals for medical treatment.

While the evacuation of injured by first responders has received much media coverage, an equally important aspect is the follow-up process of getting them back home. One organization that facilitates their return is the International Organization for Migration (IOM), an independent organization that coordinates with host governments and partner organizations in humanitarian and emergency responses involving "irregular" migrants — typically in conflict, post-conflict and disaster areas.

At the request of North Sumatra Governor Rizal Nurdin, the IOM arranged the return of over 350 Nias residents who had been medevacked to mainland Sumatra for medical treatment — after first tracking down the whereabouts of potential returnees through local hospitals.

Those who have been discharged from hospitals are assessed by the IOM's medical professionals for their fitness to travel, and are then provided hotel accommodation in Medan until the next available flight.

The IOM's assisted voluntary return program — returnees are given the option of going home or not — and other disaster relief programs for Nias were funded by the European Commission Host Organization, or ECHO, the humanitarian aid department of the European Commission.

As of May 23, 319 returnees have been flown back to Nias — 171 patients and 148 family escorts — in addition to 462 people who were treated on Nias or aboard the USNS Mercy.

About 100 others determined to be unfit for travel remain in Medan, mostly those receiving follow-up treatment and those under observation. One such individual is a woman who just gave birth on May 18, and will be returned soon with her newborn.

While clearing and reconstruction work as well as aid distribution on Nias progresses, the IOM estimates that all medevacked Nias residents will have been returned to their hometowns by June. — The Jakarta Post

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Kalender Berita

May 2005