Update Indonesia: How are the people in Sulawesi doing?

Three questions to… humedica project coordinator and intervention team member Yvonne Michel


Two heavy earthquakes measuring more than 7.0 on the Richter scale and a subsequent tsunami have caused massive havoc by the end of September within very short time on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. humedica sent out immediately a mobile intervention team to support the local partner organization Karya Alpha Omega Foundation to provide medical care and to provide important relief goods. The coordinator Yvonne Michel travelled to the disaster area, after her return she now organizes further relief measures in the humedica headquarters in Kaufbeuren, Germany.

Dear Yvonne, you have been a member of the three-person humedica team, which went to Sulawesi immediately after the earthquake and the subsequent tsunami. How did you experience this intervention?

humedica has travelled to Sulawesi in order to assist its local partner Karya Alpha Omega Foundation. The focus was on a requirement analysis as a basis for further, targeted relief measures to support the medical care initiative of the partner organization.

It was great to work together with the colleagues of Alpha Omega. There was an incredibly good atmosphere in the team. Our immediate relief measures would not have been possible without our partners. They were invaluable with regard to logistic and linguistic support. Not to forget the cultural aspect and the local knowledge, which play an important role in interventions. Alpha Omega was an essential link from us to the local population.

Together with the affected people we lived in a provisional housing. Their hospitality was overwhelming. They welcomed us to share the small amounts of food and water that were left – without knowing when the shops would open again and offer new supplies. The people were always friendly and optimistic, even so they had lost not only their possessions, but family members as well.

Kind auf Sulawesi vor Behilfsunterkunft aus Planen

Due to the earthquake and the tsunami many people in Sulawesi have lost their homes and all their possessions. Temporary housing has been constructed from planes and other material. Photo: humedica

I take home all these absolutely enriching experiences. The will to survive, the gratitude of the people living in regions of great humanitarian need and poverty impress me once and again. The little ailments of my own everyday live are put into perspective immediately and I appreciate mich more again the things I take for granted at home.

I am glad to be the responsible project coordinator for further relief measures. Having been on site during the emergency intervention phase motivated me additionally to get a long-term reconstruction project off the ground to support the victims on their way back to a normality, which consists not only of destroyed houses and improvisation, but security and stable everyday life.

Back in Germany you are still in close contact to the team of our local partner organization Karya Alpha Omega Foundation. What do they do at the moment in Indonesia?

The acute emergency relief aid phase had been ended officially the 26th of October 2018 by the government. Shortly afterwards our partner organization has called back their medical personnel. They have been on site for nearly a month and have in particular treated people in in the back country, where help was unfortunately scarce. humedica has provided the drugs and medical equipment.

At the same time the so-called "Tarpaulins" were distributed. These are big plastic planes, which can be used to construct temporary accommodations. humedica also provided hygiene sets containing important items such as soap, shampoo, toothbrushes and toothpaste as well as towels and nappies to the needy people. The distributions are still going on, their focus is to cover only the concrete demand in order not to swamp the region with relief goods, which are not really needed.

Hilfsgüterverteilung von humedica und Alpha Omega auf Sulawesi

humedica and Alpha Omega distribute urgently needed relief goods such as tent planes and hygiene articles to the people in Sulawesi. Photo: Karya Alpha Omega Foundation

A medical team of Alpha Omega is also on call, if the health situation worsens.

Our appreciated contact person and head of Alpha Omega, Non Rawung, has just travelled to Palu to gain an overview. She is in discussion with the government and possible project partners.

The acute emergency intervention has ended. What is going to happen next?

After the acute emergency phase of a disaster the relief measures often diminish and the population is suddenly left alone to face their problems. That is not in the interest of humedica and our partner Alpha Omega. We would like to engage in the transitional aid and in the reconstruction in order to provide sustainable assistance on site. Therefore it is of course necessary to work in close collaboration with the government and the local coordination mechanisms. That is the only way to make humanitarian work successful and efficient.

As soon as our partner Alpha Omega contacts us with a concrete plan, which is also coordinated with the government, we will start to plan the implementation. humedica is ready to begin anytime. But I would also like to use this opportunity to thank all the sponsors. Without their help we would not have been able to organize the emergency intervention or to initiate the reconstruction project.

We, too, would like to thank all our sponsors as well as you, Yvonne, both for your commitment and this interview!

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