Wednesday, 31 March 2010

West Sumatra Earthquake (Indonesia) - six months on

It's hard to believe that the huge earthquake which struck West Sumatra last year, happened six months ago yesterday, the 30th of March. Since then we had the massive Haiti earthquake and an equally destructive one in Chile, and as a consequence, the West Sumatra quake has almost been forgotten.

My colleague Helena Rae wrote this story from Padang and it shows how far the Red Cross has come in helping the people of West Sumatra build back their lives. Thanks Helena for your story.

A completed transitional shelter built with support from the Red Cross. Sungai Karambia, Pesisir Selatan District, West Sumatra. Photo: Muhammad Fadli/IFRC

As neighbours put the finishing touches to her temporary shelter, Jusni and her seven children look on, smiling. “It’s still under construction but I’m really excited to have this new house”, she says proudly. Jusni lives in the village of Nagari Ketaping in Padang Pariaman district, West Sumatra. Her village was close to the epicentre of the devastating earthquake that struck the region on 30 September 2009, leaving 1,117 people dead and over 114,000 homes severely damaged.

Jusni, whose home was severely damaged by the earthquake, works with other members of her community to erect her transitional shelter. The shelter will provide a temporary home for Jusni and her family of seven children. Nagari Ketaping village, Padang Pariaman district, West Sumatra. Photo: Helena Rea/IFRC

The earthquake left large cracks in the walls of her home and gaping holes where large areas of the ceiling caved in. With nowhere else to stay, the living room of her damaged home became the only habitable space for Jusni and her large family. It’s a dire situation, especially for her granddaughter who is just learning how to walk. Even now, the mild aftershocks which continue to affect the region cause the family to run outside the house to sleep in the open yard.

Shelter – a critical need

Jusni is one of 2,500 people to have received a cash grant under the Indonesian Red Cross transitional shelter programme which is providing funding for 13,500 shelters to be built across the worst affected areas of West Sumatra. Her new home is a simple 18 square meter wooden house with cement pole foundation and sago palm roof. All of the materials are available locally and the earthquake resistant design is based on a model developed in cooperation with the local university – costing only 340 Swiss francs (318 US dollars or 237 euro).

“Shelter is a critical need after an earthquake. Getting people back into a home of their own makes a big psychological difference when recovering from such a disaster,” explains Jan Willem Wegdam, the IFRC’s Recovery Coordinator for West Sumatra Operation. Eligibility for the shelter programme depends on whether a house is severely damaged and not fit to live in. Priority is given to the elderly, the sick, families with young children and pregnant mothers, many of whom have been living in tents since the earthquake struck.

From tent to shelter – a community approach
The programme is community driven with affected families actively involved from the outset. Beneficiaries receive cash grants in instalments and procure the building materials themselves. Members of the community are encouraged to help each other in the building process and Red Cross volunteers are on hand to provide technical guidance.

One of Jusni’s neighbours, Jabarin, shares a similar story. The only room that survived in his house was the kitchen. He has been forced to live in a tent for the past six months with his wife and five children. “Living in the tent was difficult”, he says, “it was very humid in the rainy season and my asthma became very serious”. With the support from the men and women of the village it took Jabarin a few days to complete his shelter which was built on the foundation of the former living room of his old home. In the design he also used many salvaged materials like doors, windows and roof sheeting.

Jabarin stands outside his newly constructed temporary shelter built from windows salvaged from his old home and locally available materials bought with a cash grant from the Red Cross. For the past six months he has lived in a tent next to his severly damaged home. Nagari Ketaping village, Padang Pariaman district, West Sumatra. Photo: Helena Rea/IFRC

As the shelter programme continues; in May the local government is planning to start a cash stimulus program that aims to meet the permanent housing needs of earthquake survivors.

The Red Cross has also been working to improve or reconstruct water and sanitation systems in schools and communities as part of a wider community health and psychosocial support programme. So far, approximately 6 million Swiss francs (5.6 million US dollars or 4 million euro) has been spent on recovery efforts.


Ruahines said...

Kia ora Bob,
Jabarin's story really impacted me. As an asthma sufferer I know how bad an attack can be. I wonder how much access he has to basic asthma medicine like ventolin or respolin? There is nothing worse than fighting for breath, and with just a few puffs of ventolin the relief is instant and dramatic. But do these products reach such people. I hope so.

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Bob McKerrow - Wayfarer said...

Kia Ora Robb

I just got back from a short Easter break in Bali. The Indonesian Red Cross mobile teams and static clinics supply all requisites for people suffering from asthma. The Government and Red Cross ensure that there is a safety net for the poorer sectors, and I am sure Jabarin will be getting help. However I will check with our team there.

I am impressed by your intensely caring attitude Robb. Kia Kaha.

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