Tsunami in Indonesia: our emergency aid team shares their first impressions
On 28 September 2018, the Indonesian island of Sulawesi was struck by a powerful earthquake, followed by a tsunami. According to the latest figures, at least 1,500 people have been killed and roughly 5,000 are reported missing. Terre des hommes (Tdh) sent an emergency aid team to the site of the disaster to assess the needs of children and families. The photos and text below show the initial stages of their mission.
Within the first few hours of the catastrophe, several hundreds were reported dead and entire villages submerged. The Indonesian government called for international aid in the days that followed. At Terre des hommes’ headquarters in Lausanne, the emergency humanitarian aid team got to work immediately. First a coordination meeting was held, during which our employees analysed the situation, the context and the urgent needs of the children and families on site. The scale of the disaster and its consequences, as well as the request by the country's authorities for international aid, fulfil the criteria for launching emergency aid.
When Tdh decided to dispatch aid to the island of Sulawesi, an emergency team had to be formed, ready for immediate departure and taking into account all of the necessary areas of expertise: an emergency coordinator, experts in the identified areas, and a logistics manager to address the many practical issues. Airport delays are used as an opportunity to organise work meetings.
After travelling for hours to reach the most isolated areas, our team is able to witness the extent of the damage. “People are afraid to sleep inside, they have planted tents in front of their houses and camps are gradually forming all over the region” tells Tdh employee Joakim Loeb upon his arrival. Over 67,000 houses have been destroyed and almost 83,000 people have been displaced as a result of the earthquake. “Tdh focuses on helping communities in the hardest-to-reach areas affected by the disaster, where there are still few humanitarian aid organisations. It is in these areas that we conduct assessments.”
Children are among the most vulnerable populations in the event of natural disasters. Thousands of them have been affected by the earthquake, and are now homeless and without access to safe drinking water. Our team met with families to assess their most urgent needs and determine the most effective way of addressing them.
The regulation of work permits and the need to collaborate with local partners make humanitarian aid more effective and better coordinated. We must therefore identify the local organisations with which we can potentially collaborate. The assessment mission should result in the drafting of an action plan that the organisation will submit to institutional donors, with the aim of raising funds to finance the humanitarian aid response.
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Photo credit: © Tdh/Joakim Loeb