Indonesia Earthquake Assistance Update

Chief of Staff Annie Maxwell and Emergency Coordinator Brett Williams reported from Yogyakarta today the increasing anxiety on the ground over whether Mt. Merapi will erupt. Yogyakarta is 30 km (18.6 miles) away from the Merapi, while Bantul which was the epicenter of the quake is 35 km (21.7 miles) away. The mountain’s lava dome has swelled, raising concerns that it could suddenly collapse, sending scalding clouds of fast-moving gas, lava, and rocks into still-populated areas. They also reported continuing seismic activity in the area with hundreds of aftershocks, including a 3.5-magnitude trembler on Friday and a similar one on Thursday that further complicates the relief efforts.

The dynamic of one disaster possibly overwhelming the current emergency response has been discussed considerably between the NGOs on the ground and the Indonesian government and military. The Indonesian government has encouraged the surrounding villages along the slopes of Merapi to evacuate to interim shelters and camps where they reside at night and are allowed to return to their homes during the day.

Maxwell and Williams also reported a shift in the majority of earthquake-related injuries from orthopedic problems to rehabilitation, lacerations, and skin infections from villagers attempting to excavate their homes. Upper respiratory infections are also a concern due to the ash and smoke generated from the volcano.

Direct Relief staff members had the opportunity to visit one of its local partners, PKPA, on Thursday. One week following the earthquake, affected children need psychological recovery program and emergency education program. The emergency education is needed until formal education in the affected areas can run under normal situation. Poor sanitation in the affected areas and lack of nutritious foods are believed to be one of the contributing factors for disease spread among the children.

PKPA is an Indonesian organization focused on children’s rights and health, and Direct Relief is financing three of its health programs in Aceh and Medan in Sumatra as part of the tsunami recovery effort.

PKPA’s executive director, Mr. Ahmad Sofian, is in Yogyakarta conducting a rapid health assessment. Direct Relief approved cash support within 72 hours of the quake to enable PKPA to send 10 physicians to Yogyakarta to provide medical support, nutrition, and address other urgent needs for affected infants and children.

According to PKPA, urgent activities in the affected areas include:

  • Establishment of child information center in both Central Java and Yogyakarta to coordinate special activities and needs for children;
  • Establishment of emergency or temporary schools to return children to school and psychosocial programs for children in rural areas;
  • Provision of additional/nutritious foods for children aged between 0 – 12 years;
  • Protecting children from commercial sexual exploitation of children in emergency situation.

PKPA is planning to implement these programs in the sub districts of Gantiwarno and Wedi, the district of Klaten and in the sub district of Bambanglipuro, the District of Bantul.

To obtain more valid data about the status of children in these three areas, PKPA is currently coordinating with various parties and is conducting rapid assessments at the sub district and village levels.

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