After the Tsunami: In the wake of the disaster, ILO helps rebuild lives and livelihoods

The massive earthquake and Tsunami that hit Asia last December left hundreds of thousands dead. What's more, an estimated 4 million people in India, Indonesia, the Maldives, Malaysia, Myanmar, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Somalia and Thailand faced the loss of their livelihoods and the risk of sinking deeper into poverty. The ILO has launched a number of programmes to help people rebuild their livelihoods.

During the first critical days following the disaster, the ILO worked on the ground to plan for early recovery and rehabilitation, whilst at the same time addressing the most immediate reconstruction needs. The ILO response is based on the recognized need for action aimed at generating employment and new forms of earning a livelihood.

The main elements of the ILO integrated response strategy are:

  • introducing labour-based technology in reconstruction to quickly generate jobs and income while rebuilding basic infrastructure;
  • boosting the revival of local economies through the local economic development (LED) approach, which emphasizes identification of economic opportunities, business promotion, employment-friendly investments, social finance, establishment of cooperatives, social dialogue and empowerment of local communities;
  • setting up emergency public employment services, providing training to help in the recovery of the labour market and putting job seekers in touch with available jobs;
  • providing technical advice and support on social safety nets and social protection catering to people in both the formal and informal economies.

In all this, the ILO is trying to address the needs of the most vulnerable group - the many orphaned children who faced traffickers and the dangers of the worst forms of child labour. Some of the young people have seen their futures washed away in the undertow. Still, children were not the only vulnerable group; there were the women who had to become heads of households; and the migrant workers who had nowhere to migrate back to.

To date, the total regular budget and extra-budgetary resources mobilized and pledged in support of the ILO response to the earthquake and Tsunami amount to US$13.2 million. The ILO submitted two proposals, one for Indonesia and one for Sri Lanka, amounting to US$15.4 million as part of the UN Flash Appeal, launched nine days after the disaster to fund the critical work of some 40 UN agencies and NGOs. Since then, some 18 concept notes have been drafted and shared with potential donors for the different affected countries, and projects are under way through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) joint programming.

Preventing child exploitation after the Tsunami

The ILO-IPEC activities in Indonesia and Sri Lanka are designed to respond to existing and emerging child labour issues in the context of the country's post-Tsunami rehabilitation and development process. The projects adopt a dual strategy: guidance, advice and support to policy-makers for the integration of child labour concerns in the country's overall emergency response, and targeted interventions to reduce and prevent child labour through a range of social services.

ILO-IPEC moved quickly to start up a new programme in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Together with the local Manpower Office, ILO-IPEC provides basic skills training programmes to 15-17 year old youth living in camps for displaced persons. A Children's Centre is being established which will provide a range of services to children both in the camps, and in communities where many Tsunami-affected children live. In the coming months, the IPEC programme will be further extended, with a particular focus on vulnerable older children.

In Sri Lanka, targeted intervention will specifically be undertaken in two Tsunami-affected districts - in the Eastern Province, the District of Trincomalee, Kinnya; and in the Southern Province, the District of Galle, Koggala. Working with community structures, affected children will be provided with educational and training opportunities as well as access to social services, and access to local and national social safety nets for their families and guardians.

Promoting Training and Employment in Aceh

The Indonesian province of Aceh, with a population of 4.2 million, had an estimated 250,000 unemployed people before the Tsunami hit the island of Sumatra. After the disaster, it is estimated that an additional 600,000 people lost their jobs. The ILO has established employment centres that are providing job registration and placement services, and identifying training needs and opportunities. Alan Boulton from the ILO office in Jakarta visited Banda Aceh before Easter and sent the following report.

BANDA ACEH - The airport in Banda Aceh is not as busy now as it was just some months ago, with very few foreign military aircraft or personnel to be seen. On the way into town, you drive by one of the mass graves for the Tsunami victims.

"When I visited the province two months ago, the stench from this place and the earth-moving equipment at work was my first impression of the massive scale of the disaster", says Alan Boulton, Director of the ILO Jakarta Office. "Now the area is being landscaped and a nice fence has been built. I am glad they are doing that", he adds.

Accompanying the Indonesian Minister for Manpower and Transmigration, H.E. Fahmi Idris, the first meeting Boulton attended was a presentation of cheques to widows and families of workers of the giant Lafarge cement plant which was severely damaged by the Tsunami.

The Minister visited the provincial Vocational Training Institute in Banda Aceh and officially opened the Employment Services for the People of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam (ESPNAD) on 21 March. The majority of job losses have occurred in the services sector, followed by agriculture, plantations, fishing and small businesses.

ESPNAD started its operation on 7 February and has already registered more than 9,000 job-seekers. Almost 400 people have been placed in temporary or fixed term employment. The registration process assists in identifying skill gaps and in providing access to appropriate training.

In his speech, the Minister said that "the Government appreciated the initiative of the ILO in collaborating with the provincial Manpower Office and establishing the employment services". He said it is important to utilize Acehnese people in recovery and reconstruction work and to increase their skills and capacities so that they can be actively involved.

"When I first visited Banda Aceh with National Manpower officials just after the Tsunami, on 13-14 January, the ILO had no activities or presence in Aceh", says Boulton. "Today, we have Employment Services Centres in the provincial capital Banda Aceh and Meulaboh, with another to open in Lhokseumawe in a few weeks."

These Centres are providing job registration and placement services and identifying training needs and opportunities. The ESPNAD Network is also developing a database of skilled people which can be used by employers and contractors in the reconstruction work that is to take place in the coming months and years in Banda Aceh. In the process, the Centres will be identifying the gaps in skills needed as a basis to provide appropriate skills training.

In addition to vocational training courses on construction skills and for supervisors in debris removal operations, a special series of training workshops for children between the ages of 15 and 17 is being implemented, with modules on furniture making, sewing/embroidery and basic computer skills. A total of 192 children will receive training, for twelve days each.

For people interested in self-employment or in setting up a small enterprise, a series of short-cycle courses focuses on how to start and improve your business (SIYB Programme). Fifty individuals have been trained so that they can now in turn act as educators for people in their various organizations and institutions, targeting young women and men up to the age of 28 years, women entrepreneurs, trade union members, and others.

The ILO has also contributed to the development of the Government Master Plan for Reconstruction, including major inputs relating to the income generation and employment strategy.