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WORLD

Frustration flows over aid funds

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Rebuilding the road from Aceh's capital to the main port is a key reconstruction task.

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Indonesia
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(CNN) -- The December 26 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami prompted an unprecedented flood of aid pledges to the affected regions, particularly to the hard-hit Aceh province of Indonesia.

A total of almost $7 billion was donated or pledged by governments and the private aid sector as the world responded to the riveting images of destruction.

Twelve months on, how much of this money has reached its destination?

According to figures supplied by the United Nations Financial Tracking Service, slightly more than $585 million has been spent so far in affected nations by the U.N.'s Flash Appeal.

And of the $2.26 billion pledged by national governments in aid, so far only $1.9 billion had been committed by June 29 this year.

While the immediate needs of food, shelter and water for the stricken appear to have been met promptly -- given the scale of the disaster -- the longer term reconstruction and redevelopment objectives are a long way off for many nations.

Tales and rumors of aid money being corruptly diverted in many regions are rife, adding to the reluctance of some donors to fulfil their pledges.

For example, Australia's respected Bulletin news magazine reported in its December 13 issue that reconstruction efforts have been particularly slow in Sri Lanka. The magazine cites the example of the Galle International Cricket Stadium, an area which was devastated by the tsunami and where as many as 3,000 Sri Lankans perished.

Despite promises at the time from the international community that the stadium would be rapidly restored to its former glory, almost no work has been done a year after the disaster.

"A lot of money has been pledged," cricket administrator Jayanadra Warnaweera told the magazine, "but we have yet to see one rupee of it."

But there are success stories.

One of the key reconstruction projects for the Aceh region was the road from the capital, Banda Aceh, to the coastal region and key port town of Meulaboh. This 250-kilometer (155-mile) economic artery had been almost destroyed by the tsunami.

By late last month, 80 kilometers of the road had been patched up or rebuilt and the entire project expected to be completed by mid-2009.

Part of the frustration with the aid process has been born of a misunderstanding of how much of the money was pledged.

The Australian government, for example, made headlines with its generous pledge of a total of Aust. $1 billion ($750,000) for Indonesian aid relief. But half of that money was in the form of loans to fund longer-term joint-development projects with Jakarta.

"The loans in the main will be for projects more broadly in Indonesia," Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said last month at the opening of a new aid-funded hospital emergency ward in Banda Aceh.

Downer added that he believed that Aceh was not short of aid money, but critics needed to understand the enormous complexity and difficulties of the rebuilding task.

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