At a glance: Indonesia

Relief efforts ‘contain’ effects of flooding on Indonesian children and families

UNICEF Image: Indonesia: Flood relief
© UNICEF Indonesia/2007/Ring
Young woman in mud-covered flooded area of Tamiang District in Aceh, Indonesia.

By Blue Chevigny

NEW YORK, USA, 3 January 2007 – Following massive flooding that started on 22 December, UNICEF Indonesia and its partners have managed to get many of the disaster’s most serious effects under control.

The floods in the Tamiang District of Aceh Province destroyed or heavily damaged 7,000 homes and displaced 90,000 people. “This area has only a total population of 250,000, so this is a significant number of displaced people,” says UNICEF Child Protection Officer Roberto Benes.

According to Mr. Benes, the first priority on the ground in Tamiang has been to address water, sanitation and health issues affecting children and families. UNICEF has been working to get them access to clean water through the provision of water-purification tablets and water tanks.

“Many of the district health centres have been destroyed or damaged severely,” notes Mr. Benes. “UNICEF is working hard to get those back to a functioning level.” He adds that malaria is a major health concern in the area; as a result, UNICEF and its partners are distributing anti-malarial medication and insecticide-treated bed nets.

UNICEF Image: Indonesia: Flood relief
© UNICEF Indonesia/2007/Ring
UNICEF water tankers supply much-needed clean water to the flood-affected area of Aceh.

Memories of the tsunami

The flooding has been traumatic for many children, explains Mr. Benes, at least partly because of the isolation of families in Tamiang. Due to the deep mud, many of them have not been able to leave their homes, and until recent days many could not be reached with relief efforts.

In addition, children have been unable to play outside or go to their schools (many of which have been destroyed), and have lost their personal belongings. 

But perhaps most notably, the rising floodwaters have reminded many children of the tsunami that devastated Aceh’s coastal communities two years ago.

“I have spoken personally to several children who feel scared of the water,” says Mr. Benes, who has just returned from the most severely flood-affected area. “They feel this way because they associate the flooding with the tsunami.”

UNICEF is committed to helping children – even in the most remote areas – with psychosocial outreach services such as temporary learning facilities, places to play and counselling for those who are feeling frightened or depressed.

UNICEF Image: Indonesia: Flood relief
© UNICEF Indonesia/2007/Ring
Families in Aceh sit on their roofs in a severely flooded section of Tamiang District, Aceh.

Situation under control

The good news, says Mr. Benes, is that the situation has been brought under control in the last two days. Thanks to a change in the weather and the efforts of UNICEF and other relief agencies, even the most isolated homes in the region have been reached with much-needed supplies, sometimes by boat or four-wheel-drive vehicle.

Despite the widespread destruction and displacement caused by flooding, says Mr. Benes, life in Tamiang is starting to return to normal.

“The situation can be considered contained now,” he reports – largely because essential supplies were pre-positioned in the region, and UNICEF and its partners were ready “to respond at a moment’s notice.”


 

 

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3 January 2007:
UNICEF Child Protection Officer Roberto Benes reports on UNICEF’s efforts to help flood-affected Indonesian children and families get back to normal.
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