17 November 2009
The last few days have been frantic. With most major earthquake relief operations, days 14 – 21 are the ones where the the relief pipeline is fully open and bulk supplies flow with an intensity into ports, airports and warehouses. Today we have a group of helicopter pilots checking out the remote mountain villages he and fellow pilots will be flying relief supplies in to during the following weeks. We have one super Puma helicopter and four smaller ones. One of the small choppers is used for the medical teams who are flown daily to remote location and picked up later in the day. The reports I get from the health coordinator, Dr. Eka, show a deteriorating health situation as most clinics and hospitals have been destroyed. Today Dr. Eka and his team landed in two villages, Dunsun Koto Tanduang and Dusun Sariak Laweh, and this was the first contact they had with the outside world since the quake struck 18 days away. The people were living off fruit and vegetables and delighted that outside help had arrived in this remote hilly area. We will keep this Red Cross 'flying doctor' service going for at least another two weeks. Villagers in Padang getting water from the Indonesian Red Cross Tanker. Photo: Bob Celebrating World Handwasing day at a school in Padang. Photo: Bob McKerrow
My role in Padang at the operation centre of the Red Cross operation, is supporting Pak Irman the Operations manager for the Indonesian Red Cross.
Our day starts around 6 a.m. Irman and I have a breakfast meeting. I had a great sleep last night, a full five hours, the first long one since day one. Pak Irman and I are declaring a day off for certain staff and volunteers tomorrow. Most of them have been working 18 hours a day for 17 days. People look burnt out. With an airlift starting with 5 helicopters tomorrow, essential staff and volunteers need to be on duty, but the bulk will be able to ‘chill out.’ Wayne the ops manager is enjoying a long weekend with his family and deserves that break. He has done a marvellous job.
The Italians, all eleven of them, are here in force. They will set up an 80 bed camp for volunteers with toilets, showers, recreation room and kitchen. Another 40 bed camp will be set up in Kota Pariaman. This is crucial for volunteer morale.
They have invited me back tonight to their boat. The boat was the only accommodation they could find as a large number of hotels were destroyed. They tell me they have found a shop that sells red wine so I have invited myself round for dinner.
Many schools in Padang have been destroyed and children now are taught in tents. Photo: Bob McKerrow
This morning the district branch celebrated Global handwashing day. Kathy, Patrick and The Co-Chairman attended. Pupils from 3 destroyed school were in two large tents outdoor doing their schooling when we arrived. Every child got a hygiene kit with soap, toothpaste and tooth brush, face clothes, mini towel and nail clippers. We took the children outside the tents to the tap stand (20 taps), where water is brought in by PMI tanker twice a day. Here we gave demonstrations on hand washing. We had clowns and large animals and soon we were all laughing and we had lots of fun together. The children were delighted to get outside of the hot tents and play and laugh. It was a relief for me to get away from the office and meetings.
I talked to the PMI PSP (psychosocial counselling) leader and she said “ It is very sad dealing with the children for they are badly traumatised, and wake up frequently at night in fear of another earthquake and their family being wiped out.”
The PMI, supported by the Irish Red Cross, has set up a mobile service to help the communities affected by the west Sumatra earthquakes to exchange necessary and appropriate information. By texting information to a central collating service (SMS Gateway), people can share their earthquake related concerns, ask questions, solicit information, ask for help.
The PMI supported by the Irish Red Cross has made a firm commitment to building a beneficiary communication model where information flows in TWO directions, from providers to people in need, and from those beneficiaries back to the providers. Through such an interactive exchange, resources can move efficiently and effectively to the individuals and communities most capable of benefiting from support. Later, during recovery, planning can incorporate the insights and priorities that come from local groups and individual citizens. The IRCS has the technology to communicate and disseminate this information exchange, in short to sustain a communication bridge from those most in need to those most capable of providing assistance.
The PMI has started the broadcast of PSAs advertising the SMS two way information system. Local Radio services Radio Republic Indonesia RRI, Radio Dahra in Pariaman, Radio Elsi in Bukit Tinngi, and Gita Radio in Agam currently broadcast public service announcements five times a day on their respective radio outlets. The network of radio stations cover all disaster affected areas in West Sumatra. In addition, the PMI will give weekly updates on television service TVRI- Padang as well as Radio Republic Indonesia in Padang City.
Indonesian Red Cross PSP (psycho-social counselling teams) work the children through their trauma and uncertainties. Photo:Bob McKerrow
Pak Irman (right) and i have at least 20 meetings a day which are necessary to keep the operation moving ahead fast. Here Irman briefs helicopter pilots. Photo: Bob McKerrow
Most nights our technical working groups meet to review the days work and plan for the next. Then later in the evening, we have our full Red Cross coordination meeting. The days are long, the sleeps short, but we are having a huge impact in delivering clean water, selected foods, tents, tarpaulins, tool kits, clothing. blankets, kitchen utensils, plastic buckets, pots and pans, hygiene kits and providing medical and PSP (psycho-social counselling teams), and blood to hospitals . It's late evening and we have just finished our Red Cross coordination meeting and our planning is very much into early recovery and temporary or T - Shelter as we call it.
I am off for dinner with the British Red Cross logistics team to have a meal, and maybe a cold beer.