How Indonesia Bounced Back From A Devastating Tsunami A Decade Later: Elizabeth Frankenberg And Duncan Thomas (Opinion)

Guest Columnist | | January 4, 2015

...After the tsunami, the Indonesian government, donors, NGOs and individuals contributed roughly $7 billion in aid for Aceh, and the government established a high-level bureau based in Aceh to coordinate recovery.  What did these resources buy? The answer matters for anyone who wonders whether assistance can make a lasting difference for people struck by a natural disaster.

In the first year, progress in Aceh was slow and frustration was high. But 10 years on, a very different picture has emerged. On many dimensions, life has returned to something that feels normal. It's a recovery in which Aceh, the Indonesian nation and the world should take pride -- but it did not come quickly, easily or cheaply.

We led an international team of scientists for the Study of the Tsunami Aftermath and Recovery (STAR). Beginning five months after the disaster, we searched for 32,320 people first interviewed as part of a 2004 survey in nearly 500 communities along the Indonesian coast. Of the 30,000 survivors, we interviewed 96 percent in follow-up surveys between 2005 and 2010 to measure the immediate impact of the tsunami and subsequent recovery in badly damaged communities in comparison to communities not directly affected...