UN Casts Light On Grim Toll of Poverty in Aceh

By webadmin on 09:45 am Dec 22, 2010
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Jakarta Globe

The rebuilding of Aceh from the enormous destruction of the 2004 tsunami has been impressive, but the province continues to lag behind the rest of the nation in terms of poverty, life expectancy and other quality of life indicators, the UN said in its first Aceh Human Development Report released today.

Requested by the Aceh government, the report marks the first time the UN Development Program has conducted a comprehensive human development study at the provincial level in Indonesia. It is based on data from 2008, the latest year for which figures are available.

“Since the tsunami six years ago and the peace accords that followed a year later, the people of Aceh have achieved remarkable progress in the physical rebuilding of their communities, yet similar advances in key human development indicators remain elusive,” the agency said.

“Long years of military and political struggle, coupled with changing economic conditions and continuing natural disasters, have left Aceh today as one of the poorest provinces in Indonesia,” the report notes.

As a result, the agency’s Human Development Indicators for Aceh rank it 29th out of the country’s 33 provinces. The report also says that measures of health and empowerment for women in the region “reveal discouraging trends over the period 1996 through 2008.”

“Aceh faces five major challenges: to improve security; to expand efforts to mitigate future natural disasters; to reduce poverty; to reverse the downward trend in women’s well-being; and to redress inequalities in less developed areas of the province,” the report points out.

Women, the study says, “are still largely under-represented in decision-making at the community level. Domestic violence perpetuated by men toward women is also still a major concern within Acehnese families.”

Among its findings, the report said life expectancy in Aceh was 68.5 years, up from 67.7 years in 2002, compared with a national average of 71.5 years in 2010.

Poverty in the province has declined to 22 percent of the populace from a peak of 30 percent in 2002, at the height of the conflict between separatist rebels and the central government, “but remains well above the 14 percent for Indonesia as a whole.”

“Health indicators show that Aceh still ranks in the bottom third or quarter of all provinces,” the report states, noting that health and poverty problems are particularly severe in the province’s west and south. In terms of schooling, however, Aceh is outperforming the national average, with 8.6 years compared with 7.6 years.

“This does not necessarily translate, however, into better educated children,” the report finds, “due to the uneven quality of teaching and school facilities.”

The report praises the province’s efforts to empower more people to participate in the development of the education system, but notes that many relatively well-schooled people remain mired in poverty due to the lack of employment opportunities — a situation that has been aggravated by the withdrawal of many aid agencies since the physical reconstruction of the province has been largely completed.

“Aceh, along with the rest of the country, has shown impressive gains in participation in the political arena and in community development,” the report says. It adds that the main platform to progress in human development in Aceh consists of empowering people to make their own decisions regarding development priorities and the use of resources.

The report lists six primary areas of action for human development in Aceh:

• Promote participation in governance • Ensure state programs pay special attention to the needs of overlooked social groups
• Improve public services, especially health and education
• Enhance work opportunities through investing in education and human resources
• Couple disaster mitigation with environmental programs
• Use public resources betterAction Items‘Military and political struggle, economic conditions and natural disasters have left it as one of the poorest provinces’ UN report