Press release December 29, 2004

Sea quake: Most pressing emergency, but poor help for Sumatra

The Indonesian island of Sumatra lies closest of all to the epicentre of the powerful sea quake that rocked the world on December 26th. There were only 150 kilometres for the huge waves to cover before they hit the northwest coast of the island. Here, in Aceh province (now Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam or NAD), largely isolated from the rest of the world for the past couple of years due to a war for independence, the worst devastation of all has taken place. First overflights show a scene of total disaster, and it is obvious that there will be at least 50,000 dead recorded in Aceh alone. In response, the Swiss NGO, PanEco, active in environmental conservation in Sumatra for many years, has launched an appeal to the international aid agencies, putting at their disposal its excellent connections with the people of Aceh.

Help is desperately needed in Aceh. Due to its isolation, the civil war (and the governments policy that no foreigners have had access to the province for the last year), and since communications were impossible for the first 48 hours, Aceh has received relatively little attention from media and aid agencies so far, despite being by far the worst area affected.

Only yesterday (28 th) was the government’s ban on foreigners lifted and overseas aid workers allowed unsupervised access. Army and rebel groups have officially agreed upon a ceasefire in order to facilitate relief operations but there are already reports of kidnappings and shootings in the central regions. Therefore foreign agencies still have to operate under some surveillance by the military and are not assured complete freedom of movement.

The Swiss NGO, PanEco, is an international foundation engaged in environmental conservation and sustainable development. Its president, Regina Frey, has taken a leading role in tropical rainforest conservation and the survival of the Sumatran orangutan since 1973. The centre of PanEco’s activities lie in and around the Gunung Leuser National Park , a protected area of ca 1 million hectares that sits predominantly in Aceh. For over 30 years, and despite the war, Regina and PanEco have been fighting the illegal trade in Sumatran orangutans. Consequently they have developed an extensive network of friends and colleagues among the people themselves, government departments and local NGOs, a large number of whom have now perished or lost their families.

However, it is these long-term relationships that put PanEco in an ideal position to undertake highly efficient relief work, both independently, and making full use of its local partners, and with complete support from the local governments and armed forces. Being a small but extremely dedicated and committed organisation, and being already based in the region with offices, staff and vehicles freely available, PanEco staff can personally guarantee that 100% of aid directly reaches the hands of those that need it most. They can also adapt and change immediately when the needs and priorities change (e.g. from food and clothing to urgent medical needs). For these reasons, PanEco has launched this appeal to individuals, organisations and other aid agencies to join its efforts and make use of its presence on the ground. PanEco’s local partner, YEL (the Indonesian Foundation for a Sustainable Ecosystem) has already established a relief post in Banda Aceh, is arranging for foreign aid workers to reach the decimated (and most inaccessible) large town of Meulaboh, and launched a major fundraising appeal in the North Sumatran capital of Medan (in conjunction with the popular local “Medan Business” newspaper). PanEco is simultaneously appealing for urgent donations in Switzerland and the rest of Europe , to support its rapid relief effort in Aceh.



PanEco Foundation, Chileweg 5, CH-8415 Berg am Irchel , Switzerland

Tel. +41 52 318 2 23, Fax +41 52 318 19 06

EMail:, <>

For further enquiries please contact:

Regina Frey, President of the Board

Mobile 079 419 12 22, <>