Feb 14, 2011
In the three months since the devastating night time earthquake and tsunami in the remote Mentawai Islands, ACT Alliance’s Indonesian members have provided life-saving relief and recovery.The 7.7 magnitude earthquake that hit the islands on October 25 triggered a 3m high tsunami with waves slamming inland as far as 1km and reaching the roofs of houses in coastal villages on north and south Pagai islands, the worst hit areas. The government’s national disaster taskforce says the tsunami claimed over 500 lives and left hundreds injured, with just over 11,400 people still out of their homes causing a total loss of nearly US$ 39 million. ACT’s US$1.25 million appeal for continued recovery work on the islands, one of the least developed areas of Indonesia, has just been issued, with recovery work scheduled to continue until October. In the days after the tsunami, bad weather and isolation meant the emergency response was slow. The islands received only limited aid but ACT managed to deliver relief, including food supplies for babies, clean water and sanitation facilities, transitional shelter, clothing, medicines, baby kits, sanitary napkins, blankets, and medical teams. Transport of goods still depends on the weather, and sea and wave conditions. The islands can only be accessed by once-weekly boat from the mainland, Sumatra. Phone lines are limited, cell phone signal is poor and electricity is cut for up to six hours a day, sometimes only running six hours a day. It remains unclear what assistance the regional government can contribute to the recovery effort, apparently being unable to identify the needs of the communities in the Mentawai islands. ACT Indonesia member Yakkum Emergency Unit initially sent out mobile health clinics to Sikakap, staffed with a doctor and emergency nurse. A pressing need was clean water access. YEU worked with community workers in one town to repair the water installation. YEU contributed pipes, brooms, dustbins, hoes, harrows, barrows and first aid kits. YEU later distributed sports balls and nets to help people try and alleviate trauma. Last month, it worked with a camp community to rehabilitate a football field, with the aim of increasing the sense of togetherness among residents and help them cope with their trauma. People now use the field every day. After the first football games, YEU witnessed different faces, happier ones to those immediately after the tsunami. Yayasan Tanggul Bencana Indonesia has been working in villages in North Pagai, where residents predominantly fish to earn a living. However, bad weather and broken fishing equipment meant the fishermen had to stop going to sea. In addition, some were afraid of being hit by another tsunami while at sea. Some also planted cacao, coconut, banana, taro, patchouli, palm nut and clove but the crops had to be abandoned, as the fishermen focused on relocating their homes and building shelters. Children in villages have returned to school traumatised, having difficulty concentrating, especially when they hear thundering waves. Academic performance has slipped.
People without homes face difficulties getting water and maintaining sanitation, having to rely on a river up to 500m away to provide water supply which becomes muddy during rain or drought.Residents’ health has improved, although some children suffer malnutrition and the village chief and health workers say the villages lack medicine, equipment and other medical personnel. Emergency health care is limited, with one area having only one midwife. Church World Service Indonesia is still working in the three worst hit areas, focusing on water sanitation and transitional shelters. Local communities displaced by the tsunami now rely on rain or river for water supply, using waterproof tarpaulins to pool rain water. Hygiene is a major problem. Many people defecate in the jungle near water sources, or in villages and camps where people live in close proximity. One displaced person said there were a couple of latrines in the camps but they were woefully inadequate. People abandoned them when water supplies were low. Children swim and bathe in the same ponds their mothers wash laundry and dishes or draw drinking water. Moreover, most people do not wash their hands with soap. With the number of homeless and now enduring the rainy season, the risk of illness from open defecation is even greater. Conditions in the camps are miserable in the rainy season. The tents are boiling hot during the day and cold at night. Residents worry their belongings may be stolen while they are at work. Government plans to move communities from camps have intensified but has not been fully endorsed by villagers who think the relocation site is too far away from theirs field and other sources of income. CWS has been providing clean water for communities in the South and North Pagai Islands, distributing nearly 60,000 litres a day at 11 relocation sites. It has distributed axes, machetes, water proof tarpaulins, and other relief items to assist the community collect rain water. CWS has taken over the management of World Food Program’s tent in Sikakap which stores recovery materials for government and NGOs. CWS will start building sanitation facilities and transitional shelters once the government decides on a relocation site.
–there was a mistake in the previous photo credit, photo credits should be given to YEU emergency response team in Mentawai