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Nias quake two years on – progress made but greater focus on economic development is needed

Gunung Sitoli - Two years on from the quake, international aid agency Oxfam is helping 61,000 people affected by the quake in 60 villages.

Oxfam has spent over US$3.5 million on its recovery efforts in one of the poorest regions in Indonesia. The main focus of its work has been on restoring public health and helping the people of Nias find sustainable ways of earning a living.

Ian Small, Oxfam Senior Programme Manager for Aceh and Nias said, "A great deal has been achieved, but we are concerned that this small island has not benefited as much from the reconstruction boom compared to its neighbouring province of Aceh. Chronic poverty and isolation have slowed down the pace of reconstruction. More attention is needed to secure Nias' long-term economic development".

"The first wave of reconstruction has generated new jobs and boosted small businesses in the sector of construction and services. However, there is a clear risk that this economic bubble will implode once the aid money dries up," he added.

To overcome poverty, Oxfam has provided business and vocational training to farmers, fishermen and traders groups to help them better market their products and recover from the effects of the earthquake. Small credits have also been distributed to seventy saving and loans groups to help them start-up small businesses.

About 1,400 rubber and cocoa farmers from across the island have received specific training and some improved variety seeds. Oxfam has partnered with the Indonesian Coffee and Cocoa Research Institute in East Java to introduce new tree varieties, better harvesting tools, and cultivation techniques to cocoa farmers.

On March 28, 2005, nearly 1000 people were killed and 70,000 people were displaced in the disaster, causing a total of US$400 million in losses.

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