Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Disaster Preparedness in Aceh, Indonesia

After a long weekend in Hong Kong I am in Aceh province of Indonesia again, working with the Indonesian Red Cross and our partner national societies, on long term support. As the Tsunami construction programme slowly draws to a close, more and more effort is being placed on long term programmes which will mitigate the effects of disasters in the future. Here is a story about two young girls, Adel and Salsa.

Students get a head-start on disaster preparedness

“I know! I know it!” Adel and Salsa spontaneously call out. The two little girls are raising their hands as high as they possibly can in a competition to answer the question first.

Both Adel and Salsa pictured above, are fourth and fifth grade students (respectively), are members of the “young doctor” team at SD 27 elementary school in Banda Aceh. Like other young doctors, Adel and Salsa were trained in basic health and emergencies training as part of the American Red Cross and Indonesia Red Cross (PMI) integrated community-based disaster risk reduction programme.

The teacher finally calls on Adel and asks her what should be done to care for someone knocked unconscious after an earthquake. “Kak Reza [a PMI volunteer] explained that if there is unconscious victim, we need to loosen their clothes and elevate their legs higher than their body.” Adel answers loudly. Salsa nods her head in enthusiastic agreement.

Protect themselves

The young doctors team and other school-based activities aim to increase disaster response and first aid knowledge among young people in tsunami-affected areas of Aceh. Through the programme, the American Red Cross and PMI are working with students of all ages in 75 schools across Banda Aceh, Aceh Besar, Sabang and Aceh Jaya, helping them to understand local disaster risks and what they can do to protect themselves.

On a sunny November afternoon, the training of young doctors in SD 27 was put to the test through an emergency simulation. More than 200 children participated in the drill activity, which focused on what to do in the event of an earthquake.

Rescue operation during the drill.

Adel, Salsa and their fellow schoolmates played their parts in the carefully crafted scenario, with additional participation from trained teachers and PMI volunteers together with each school health unit.

Cope and care

Such drills ultimately test the readiness of schools to cope with and care for their students in the midst of an emergency. Teachers and school staff are then assisted by PMI volunteers to address any weaknesses detected through the drill activity.

Even at her young age, Adel understands why disaster preparedness is important. She lost her grandmother in the tsunami and has carried this lesson with her.

“We can save more people if we all are aware of and prepared for all types of disasters,” she explains.
Thanks to Wilda Anggraeni, American Red Cross in Aceh, Indonesia for help with article and photos.


Unknown said...

I love that the little girls name is Salsa!

When I was in Indonesia I was impressed with the devotion, faithfulness, love, and pure peace of being that I found in so many of the people there. A beautiful place and it's amazing what you are doing there.

Bob McKerrow - Wayfarer said...

Good morning D'Arcy

The Indonesians generally are a very peaceful people and a joy to work with.


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