Nearly three weeks after their rescue off North Aceh, Indonesia, the 99 mostly women and children Rohingya refugees, were transported to a long-term shelter on Friday after being housed at a temporary shelter.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM), in close coordination with local authorities, organised three buses and two trucks to ferry the group and their meagre belongings plus all the items that they have received from various entities since they landed.
Prior to the group’s departure from the temporary shelter, IOM provided a comprehensive pre-departure briefing, while also reminding the group of strict COVID-19 protocols for their safety.
A 32-year-old man expressed his and the group’s gratitude, saying, “We are now in a shelter on the land. Now, no fear of sudden death, which we always felt in the boat.Getting food and treatment here. I feel very happy to see IOM people here every day in the shelter. We are grateful to be on the land.”
The group wore masks and practiced physical distancing during the journey, being mindful of several COVID-19 related trainings that IOM had imparted to them in the past weeks, along with the local health department.
Louis Hoffmann, IOM Chief of Mission in Indonesia, commended the round-the-clock efforts of the Government, as well as his team and partners on the ground.
“We work closely with the national refugee task force and are pleased to be doing the same at the local level. We welcome the coordination role of the local task force, which provides all stakeholders the necessary coordination forums to organize activities and avoid duplication of efforts in meeting everyone’s needs.”
He added that IOM has been actively involved in all the clusters that have been established to coordinate the response, from shelter, food and nutrition to health, water, sanitation and hygiene.
Notably the IOM medical team has established a referral system on the ground, to ensure that the health needs beyond primary care are also being met.
Once the group settled in at the new shelter, IOM teams distributed hygiene kits tailored to the different needs of the children, women and men in the group.
IOM water tanks and wash stands previously provided at the temporary shelter were also transferred to the new shelter, so that the group and anyone entering the facility can take necessary precautions required of the health pandemic, and help safeguard the wellbeing of the group.
In the last few days at the temporary shelter, the group had been trained to properly sanitize and wash their hands regularly, with special sessions taking place for children in the form of storytelling and puppet shows conducted by IOM and local NGO Rumah Zakat.
IOM has also supported the International Committee of the Red Cross in the essential activity of restoring family links for the group. Once family members are located, the group is given the opportunity to call their family back home and let them know that they are well and safe.
After four months and 10 days at sea, such connections are essential to the mental wellbeing of the group and their families back home.
In addition, IOM has been facilitating necessary information sharing with the group, and also organized professional counseling for those who needed specialized care and attention.
While this vulnerable group are being well looked after, concerns remain about others who may be stranded at sea, after taking to boats during the spring season in search of safety and protection.
IOM’s emergency response to support the Rohingya in Aceh is funded by the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO). (Source: IOM)