After a war or a disaster, we naturally think of the victims and survivors. But think, too, of those who have to put all the pieces back together again. Their task is immense, and the lives and well-being of thousands or millions depends on getting it right.
I saw such a process first-hand in Aceh, Indonesia, a region that suffered the unfortunate circumstances of being both a post-conflict and post-disaster region. A three-decade war had already taken 15,000 lives and left the province economically isolated when an earthquake and tsunami struck in December 2004. Entire communities were washed away. Infrastructure—roads, bridges, ports and more—lay in ruins. Schools, hospitals and government offices that remained were unable to function. Huge swaths of coastline, as well as the provincial capital, were covered in debris. Worst of all, over 200,000 were dead or missing, and survivors were left homeless and without food or water.
How do you begin to recover from such a catastrophe? Where do you even start?