18 June 2010, viewed: 2119 times
By Carrie Costantini
In Indonesia, the threat of a disaster or emergency is constant, from typhoons and earthquakes to motorcycle and automobile accidents. The country, made up of thousands of islands, lies on a series of fault lines directly aligned with the Pacific Ring of Fire, the most seismically active area in the world, so earthquakes are common.
Lutheran World Relief, with our local partner organization Yakkum Emergency Unit (YEU), is working with communities on the island of Nias, located off the west coast of Sumatra, to anticipate and prepare for disasters. LWR and YEU are hoping to limit the amount of damage and stress that can occur during a disaster by working with schools and community organizations to help them develop safety trainings and evacuation plans, and encourage networking and information sharing between villages to solve large scale problems.
People remember information instilled in them at an early age (remember Stop, Drop and Roll?), so student involvement is key. When I visited recently, a local elementary school gave a demonstration on how to use basic first aid skills to assist those in need during an emergency. The students acted out a scenario involving a motorcycle accident with two victims, working quickly and harmoniously to ensure their patients were given the needed care.
Community-based organizations are also important since they already work and provide services in the community, which creates an inherent trust and makes this type of training more legitimate to the people of the village. Not only are LWR and YEU equipping communities to better respond to disasters, we are also empowering them to advocate for access to government resources. Now, if an earthquake occurs, the village has a plan in place such as pre-arranged meeting locations, tsunami warnings and school disaster task forces.
One community leader, Sokhiatialo Hareta, explained that “during the 2005 earthquake, it was chaos, messy. No one knew what to do.” But during a recent earthquake, Hareta said, everything was organized and families already knew they should go to the pre-planned evacuation spot. Many other community leaders recalled that when a massive earthquake struck their island just weeks after the devastating 2004 tsunami, families did not know proper procedures or have any emergency plans in place. But through this program, everyone in the community now knows what to do and where to go.
LWR and our partners are working on other projects around the world that help communities adapt to and mitigate the devastating effects of disasters. From landslide risk reduction in El Salvador to resource management and mangrove reforestation in the Philippines, LWR is helping rural communities learn important skills to minimize their risk.
Carrie Costantini is LWR’s Public Policy and Advocacy Associate
this story is co-posted from http://lwr.org/eNews/articles/eNews0610_Indonesia.asp