Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Tsunami survivors face future

ALMOST two years ago, in the wake of the deadly Boxing Day tsunami, Acehnese girl Delisa had a couple of wishes.

One was for a new leg to replace the one she lost in her battle to survive the mountainous waves that swamped her homeland. The other was that she be able to return to school and keep learning.
Now, as the second anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami approaches, Delisa has a new leg but she still relies on crutches to get around the house, only utilising the new limb when she is going out.

She has gone back to a new school but not to her old classmates – most of whom were killed in the tsunami – and is now ranked fourth in the class.

Delisa's mother and older brother and sister were all killed in the tsunami – among the 160,000 killed or missing in the Indonesian province of Aceh, which was closest to the earthquake's epicentre and bore the brunt of the resulting tsunami.

On November 12 this year, a date circled on the family's calendar, her father Bachtiar married Sabariah, a widow who had lost her husband and baby in the tsunami.

"Delisa used to go to her house often and one day she asked Sabariah if she would like to be her new mum. She came home and told me to marry her," Bachtiar tells from the home, where the family has set up a small convenience shop in the front section.

Authorities say it will take another three years to rebuild Aceh and that 48,000 of the 128,000 new homes needed have so far been built.

And Delisa is not unlike other amputees. Her prosthetic left leg was donated by a Malaysian charity – however it is not the right size, the knee is in the wrong place, it is uncomfortable to wear and she cannot walk without crutches.

A second prosthetic, from Indonesia, is even worse. It is old-fashioned and so heavy she can barely lift her leg with it on.

"I wish I could have a proper one, a good one. I only wear it to school but for other daily activities I don't wear it because it's not comfortable," she said.

"Sometimes I feel sad because I can't follow my friends to play around."

Delisa still has vivid memories of the tsunami, of her battle to survive and of losing her family but, like so many others, says she "tries to forget".

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