A little over one year ago, the Indian Ocean tsunami struck 14 countries, killing an estimated 223,500 people and leaving 1.8 million homeless.
Aid poured in and for once, the challenge was to spend the money rather than raise it. In Indonesia efforts had to be coordinated between 124 international nongovernmental organizations and more than 40 governments, multilateral banks and U.N. agencies. It had to struggle with the legacy of a long-running conflict in Aceh, a tradition of corruption in public administration, and the logistical obstacles created by the tsunami. Not surprisingly, it took time for reconstruction to get underway.
So far about 25,000 houses have been built in Aceh, but at least 60,000 people are still living in tents and perhaps five times that many are living with relatives. The World Bank projects that 18 months will pass before enough permanent homes have been built for everybody.
No effort of this sort can escape criticism: There have been reports of poorly built homes that people do not want to move into and of relief agencies failing to offer a transparent accounting of how benefactors' money has been spent. But reconstruction seems to be going well enough that the main need is not for recrimination but for commitment to completing reconstruction over the next two years or so. Vigilance against corruption and poor construction must be maintained, and donors must be prepared to allow their money to be used flexibly.
After the most generous humanitarian outpouring in history, the world has a chance to get reconstruction right. One year on, it is a work in progress.
[Source: Washington Post editorial]