In the early morning of May 27, 2019, an earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale struck the province of Yogyakarta in central Java. The earthquake killed more than 6,500 people, seriously injured 45,000, and left an astounding 1.8 million Indonesian citizens homeless.
Amin Khoja, an American Red Cross Psychosocial Support Field Officer, speaks with children about the destruction inflicted on areas of Indonesia by the 6.3-magnitude earthquake. Many parents said that their children began crying when they saw their school building collapse. (Photo credit: Bonnie Gillespie)
In the hours and days following the earthquake, the most pressing need was to provide shelter for those who had lost their homes. The American Red Cross quickly contributed $1.4 million to help purchase sleeping mats and tarpaulins to create temporary refuge for the displaced.
The American Red Cross also mobilized delegates to lead a relief emergency response unit (ERU). The unit not only provided critical manpower to help distribute relief items, but also assisted with coordinating and monitoring humanitarian aid efforts and identifying appropriate needs for relief materials, such as hygiene kits.
“During the first two months of the operation, we were able to provide basic shelter materials (tents and tarps) to over 110,000 affected families,” said Nathan Cooper, American Red Cross emergency response unit officer. “We were able to reach this number of families due to the tireless work of Indonesian Red Cross volunteers, who hand-delivered the supplies to each and every one of these families.”
Restoring a “Sense of Place”
In the months since, the American Red Cross, working with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the Indonesian Red Cross—known locally as the Palang Merah Indonesia, or PMI—has provided vital assistance to more than 900,000 quake survivors. Together with local communities and government agencies, the Red Cross has contributed financial and technical support to help affected people overcome the economic, physical, and emotional traumas facing the region.
An American Red Cross worker surveys the damage in Klaten, Indonesia. The earthquake that struck near the city of Yogyakarta on the Indonesian island of Java and was followed by thousands of aftershocks. (Photo credit: Bonnie Gillespie)
For example, the Psychosocial Support Program (PSP) provides “psychological first aid” by helping to restore a sense of normalcy to peoples’ daily lives. According to Sujata Bordoloi, a PSP manager for the American Red Cross at the time of the earthquake, a disaster of this magnitude can often deprive people of their “sense of place”—the daily routines that provide structure to their lives, such as adults going to work, children attending school, or families praying together at a mosque. American Red Cross psychosocial delegates have helped facilitate requests by community leaders to restore a “sense of place” among local residents.
Through its cooperation with the International Federation, the American Red Cross has helped coordinate a comprehensive plan to build a more resilient infrastructure. The focus of this plan is on promoting self-sufficiency by working with local Indonesian community systems of mutual support (traditionally called “gotong royong”) and the Indonesian government. This allows communities to restore residential developments while avoiding structural weaknesses that caused such widespread devastation in the 2006 earthquake.
American Red Cross assistance in this project has been both technical and financial. To date, the American Red Cross has provided $600,000 toward the development of more than 11,500 temporary shelters in the affected regions. The Indonesian government is working to provide permanent housing for the survivors.
Preparing for Future Disasters
To help the region better prepare for future natural disasters, the American Red Cross is providing financial assistance to support a preparedness program and technical resources to build more resilient housing. In a region subject to frequent natural disasters, the American Red Cross is offering valuable support for increasing the capacity of people in Indonesia to withstand and respond to future disasters and emergencies.
“Our support of the disaster operation has contributed to improving the ability of communities in Yogyakarta to respond to emergencies and disasters,” said Rebecca Scheurer, American Red Cross regional manager for international disaster response for Asia and the Middle East. “The work that the American Red Cross has supported through PMI and the International Federation is an example of comprehensive disaster management aimed at making communities safer and better equipped to respond to future disasters.”
Although work remains to be done in Yogyakarta, American Red Cross assistance to the International Federation and the PMI will continue to improve people’s lives in the region in the coming months and years.
You can help those affected by 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. Call 1-800-RED CROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the International Response Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting www.redcross.org. The American Red Cross honors donor intent. If you wish to designate your donation to a specific disaster please do so at the time of your donation.