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At a glance: Indonesia

Life after the earthquake in a village in Central Java, Indonesia

© UNICEF Indonesia/2006/Estey
Trucks carrying UNICEF supplies arrive in the remote village of Nogosari, Central Java. Seventy five per cent of the homes in the village were damaged or destroyed in the 27 May earthquake.

By Daniel Ziv

NOGOSARI, Indonesia, 6 June 2006 – A string of brick houses along a lush green hillside comprise the quaint village of Nogosari in Central Java, Indonesia. But at 5:55 a.m. on 27 May, Nogosari’s tranquillity was suddenly punctured. The 6.2 Richter-scale earthquake, its epicentre just a few km away, violently lifted up this village before setting it back down again as little more than a pile of rubble.

About 75 per cent of Nogosari’s houses were destroyed, and three out of four people here suffered at least minor injuries. They were fortunate only in that they were spared death. That doesn’t mean lives were not otherwise destroyed early that Saturday morning, however.

Nogosari is now lined with makeshift beds of bamboo and string, on which village elders rest under the hot sun. A hastily scribbled sign announces the hours of an improvised soup kitchen. The village suffered doubly due to its location to the southeast of the hard-hit Bantul district, where relief efforts are centred.

But UNICEF supplies have been arriving for the past week, bringing some relief and new hope. To date in the earthquake zone as a whole, UNICEF and its partners have distributed more than 3,400 plastic shelter tarpaulins, almost 1,800 cooking sets, over 1,200 lanterns and numerous other supplies, as well as setting up 28 water distribution points and delivering 220,000 litres of clean water.  

As part of this wider crisis response, UNICEF began a comprehensive round of emergency deliveries to the village of Nogosari – providing water, tarps, cooking gear and family hygiene kits with basic washing necessities – less than 48 hours after the earthquake struck.

© UNICEF Indonesia/2006/Estey
Viki, 10, poses with his mother Esti, 34. Viki’s elementary school, located in his small village of Nogosari, was destroyed in the quake. His one request was that it be rebuilt soon so he could attend school again.

Children at risk

Rianti, 25, is a jovial woman who helps volunteers gather fellow villagers to receive hygiene kits. “The children here are still so scared,” she says as her four-year-old son clings to her shoulder. “I constantly have to rock my little son, even in the middle of the day, so that he can stay calm and feel secure.

“But thank God we are alive and not too badly hurt,” Rianti continues. “For the first two days we barely had anything to live on. We managed with just cassava and dry roots from the field. But now we’ve started receiving help. They brought us drinking water, medicines, instant noodles and sugar.”

According to the latest available figures, some 5,800 people died in the quake, and nearly 34,000 were injured. More than 130,000 have been displaced as a result of the severe damage to buildings and homes across the region. Children are especially at risk in the disaster’s immediate aftermath.

Just days after the quake that reduced his family house to a pile of rocks, Viki, a plump, friendly boy of 10, is still visibly shaken. He begins matter-of-factly describing the events of that awful morning, but then pauses and breaks down. “I was so scared,” he says through his tears. “I was mostly afraid of losing my parents.”

Viki’s primary school was also destroyed by the quake. “I don’t know what I’m going to do now,” he says. “It looks like we’ll miss the rest of the school year, but I just want to return to class so that I can become knowledgeable and make my parents proud.”

© UNICEF Indonesia/2006/Estey
UNICEF trucks travelled to the remote village of Nogosari in Central Java, delivering hygiene kits, tarpaulins and cooking kits to desperate villagers.

Restoring a sense of normalcy

The situation for schools in Central Java is desperate. UNICEF estimates that 129 primary schools have been destroyed, 169 severely damaged and 131 lightly damaged.

In response, UNICEF is working with local governments to set up temporary schools as soon as possible. The goal is to launch a back-to-school campaign by 17 July, the start of the new school year. Already, 4,000 children are set to return to school in 20 UNICEF emergency tents on 8 June. 

Besides organizing temporary schools, UNICEF is working to provide a safe environment for children affected by the earthquake, opening special centres to restore a sense of normalcy to their young lives. The centres provide care and counselling to children who exhibit psycho-social problems such as fear of entering buildings and crying at the sight of ambulances in the quake's aftermath.

Meanwhile, the situation has worsened at Mt. Merapi, an active volcano near the epicentre of the earthquake, with more than 190 hot clouds discharged in just two days and the lava dome expanding. UN agencies and the government are now assessing the situation, and villages in the immediate area have been evacuated as a precaution against a possible eruption.

Sabine Dolan and Tim Ledwith contributed to this story from New York.




2 June 2006:
UNICEF correspondent Sabine Dolan reports on life after the quake in the village of Nogosari, in central Java.
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