BANDA ACEH, Indonesia -- One in eight children in Indonesia's Aceh province are malnourished, disease still stalks refugee camps, and relief deliveries are erratic more than a month after a tsunami devastated the region, UN officials said yesterday.
Securing aid deliveries -- as well as how to cement a brittle cease-fire in their three-decade conflict -- were the focus of talks yesterday in Finland between the Indonesian government and Aceh rebel leaders that were spurred by the tsunami.
Separately, Tamil Tiger insurgents in tsunami-hit Sri Lanka said they were temporarily putting their separatist struggle on hold to focus on the disaster.
On Thailand's resort island of Phuket, delegates from dozens of countries debated where a regional tsunami warning system should be based and what technology is needed to make it work.
Despite the bleak humanitarian review in Aceh, the overall picture was one of improvement, a senior UN official said. Aceh bore the brunt of the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami, which killed between 145,000 and 178,000 people in 11 countries and left tens of thousands more missing and feared dead.
"We know there are needs that are not being met," said Bo Asplund, the UN representative in Indonesia, speaking in the provincial capital of Banda Aceh. But the world body was "no longer worried about (whether) anyone is starving. The schools are reopening. That is a sure sign of recovery."
One UN report said unsanitary conditions are appalling in refugee camps along Aceh's west coast -- the closest land to the earthquake's epicenter. Some camps have no latrines, forcing people to defecate in fields or near rivers and ponds where they also bathe.
Asplund acknowledged the conditions but said the matter was "well onto the path of recovery."