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International Aid Flows into Indonesia Following Quakes
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Red Cross channels relief to remote villages in need
By Abi Weaver, International Communications, American Red Cross
October 9, 2009
Last week, two major earthquakes struck the west coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The first quake, measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale, hit the district of Padang on September 30. The second quake, measuring 6.8 on the same scale, shook an inland area southeast of Padang on October 1. The American Red Cross plans to contribute $1 million in financial assistance and relief supplies to support local response efforts.
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Indonesian Red Cross volunteers distribute family kits to earthquake survivors. Photo Credit: IFRC
Indonesian Red Cross volunteers distribute family kits to earthquake survivors.
Photo Credit: IFRC
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On Oct. 9, the American Red Cross received a $500,000 grant from the U.S. government for the West Sumatra earthquakes. The grantor - the U.S. Agency for International Development - administers the U.S. foreign assistance program, providing economic and humanitarian assistance in more than 120 countries worldwide.

The global Red Cross network is scaling up its relief operation as more cargo flights arrive daily in Padang, Indonesia following last week’s devastating earthquakes.

More than 20 tons of food and other relief items have been delivered in partnership the local government and other aid organizations. The Indonesian Red Cross (also known as Palang Merah Indonesia or PMI), for example, has distributed hygiene kits, kitchen sets, clothing and bedding to more than 2,500 families in the districts of Padang and Pariaman since the disaster.

The Red Cross has organized seven additional flights to arrive next week, each carrying 45 tons of supplies from one of its global warehouses in Kuala Lumpur. Among the stocks, are blankets, jerry cans and insecticide-treated bed nets contributed by the American Red Cross. Ultimately, the international Red Cross network aims to push these types of critical supplies out to 100,000 people before winter.

“The immediate priority, however, is to get relief items as well as shelter and clean water to people living in small, remote villages cut off by landslides” said Alex Mahoney, disaster program manager for Asia with the American Red Cross. “Some villagers, unable or frightened to stay in their damaged homes, are living under plastic tarps in front of their houses.”

They are not alone. Officials calculate that throughout the province 200,000 homes were damaged in the back-to-back earthquakes and subsequent landslides. Officials expect 20,000 families will need temporary shelter in the coming weeks.

In many cases, their material loss is compounded by physical injuries. Hundreds were crushed when their homes collapsed around them.

“With the local public healthcare system stretched, mobile clinics established by the Red Cross have helped to treat the injured people, particularly in the rural areas where access is more difficult,” added Mahoney.

Traveling by helicopter, the Indonesian Red Cross can by-pass buried roads and quickly deliver supplies as well as specialized medical teams to areas of great need.

With power now restored in most of Padang, Red Cross health teams have treated more than 3,000 people and established five clinics. Throughout the emergency phase and into reconstruction, the Indonesian Red Cross will continue to support emergency health centers, operate ambulance services, distribute insecticide-treated bed nets and promote safe health practices, like washing hands and boiling water. 

Volunteers are also providing emotional support for traumatized survivors who may have lost loved ones in the quakes and offering simple tips for rescuers on how to cope with stress. The Indonesian Red Cross is also able to bring peace of mind to worried families by delivering “I am alive” messages and helping to reconnect separated loved ones using cellular and satellite phones.

Additionally, Red Cross counselors have organized group therapy sessions for women and structured play activities for 100 local children, including puppet shows. Officials estimate 40 percent of the children in the provincial capital have resumed classes, and international aid organizations are partnering to:

  • offer emotional support for the students and teachers
  • replace educational supplies and recreational toys
  • restore the schools’ water and sanitation systems

The global Red Cross network is also building eight community water treatment plants that will produce enough clean water for 26,400 people per day. The American Red Cross has offered to pay for the fuel so that trucks can continuously deliver water to the affected population.

The government confirms that these types of emergency interventions will continue for the next month, and expects reconstruction to begin in November and continue until next spring.

You can help the victims of countless crises around the world each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, which will provide immediate relief and long-term support through supplies, technical assistance and other support to help those in need. Donations to the International Response Fund can be sent to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013 or made by phone at 1-800-REDCROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish) or online at www.redcross.org.

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