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The West Sumatra quake - one year on

© UNICEF/2010/Estey
A mother takes her baby to the UNICEF-supported temporary health clinic built after the 2009 quake.

PADANG, 30 September 2010 – One year ago, a powerful earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale devastated a stretch of more than 60 miles along the western coast of Sumatra island, Indonesia, killing 1,117 people, of which one-third were children.

An estimated 1.4 million people, including 700,000 children were affected by the 30 September disaster; most of them lost their possessions and access to safe water.

Within hours of the quake, the government responded by declaring a one-month emergency phase, and UNICEF made a commitment to support a six-month programme of emergency response to meet the immediate needs of women and children, and support strengthened capacity in emergency preparedness. The Indonesian government allocated US$333 million in aid money, while UNICEF mobilized more than US$ 5 million as part of a broader UN appeal.

UNICEF's support along with that of over 200 international and national organizations have enabled vital resources, education and protective services as well as improved emergency preparedness to benefit the most vulnerable of children in the region.

UNICEF's support with others have enabled vital resources and improved emergency preparedness to benefit the most vulnerable of children in the region.

In addition to its financial contributions, UNICEF has also played a pivotal role in relief coordination in providing clean water, sanitation and hygiene services and co-leading the response in education with Save the Children, and in food and nutrition with the World Food Programme.

In many areas, water tanks and pipes owned by the state-run water company were destroyed in the quake, reducing capacity by half. Realizing the importance of access to clean water, especially after a natural disaster, UNICEF and its partners rapidly established more than 100 water bladders, each with a capacity for 5,000 litres of clean water and provided some 20,000 jerry cans and hundreds of sachets of water purifier for 200,000 people, including 100,000 children.

There was neither any major disease outbreak in the aftermath of the disaster, or any disease-related deaths reported and 12 months later, clean water production now meets up to 70 per cent of current needs.

Learning needs

The West Sumatra's local disaster management body reported nearly 5,000 educational facilities affected by the quake, including more than 1,000 badly damaged schools in five hardest-hit areas in the region. To re-start learning immediately, UNICEF provided 348 school tents for more than 27,000 students, along with learning materials for 124 teachers, Early Childhood Development kits for more than 1,500 children and recreational materials for over 13,000 children.       

"The learning and teaching process has now returned to normal, even in the damaged schools," says Erdian Syah, an official at the provincial Education Office. He says that more than 470 of the badly damaged schools have now been rebuilt, and the immediate and comprehensive response has helped the region to maintain its enrollment rates.

Linking health to education, UNICEF also supported the construction of more than 160 semi permanent latrine cubicles in 43 schools, reaching 5,583 students and 478 teachers. Some 126 teachers were trained and received information, education and communication materials on hygiene education, including hand-washing.

“The immediate objective is to make children safer during disasters and to prepare them as agents of change, who can spread knowledge to larger communities especially to their own families and friends,” says Estie Pratiwi, an official at the provincial Social Affairs office.

Children’s psychological needs were also addressed in the days after the disaster. Around 3,300 children directly benefited from a variety of activities, including the distribution of psychosocial kits and other materials as well as psychosocial activities organized by trained peer-educators. Indirectly, this programme has benefitted a further 8,000 young people and family members in the area.      


© UNICEF/2010/Estey
Children take a break from lessons in their UNICEF-supported temporary school built after the 2009 quake.

Medical facilities also suffered in the earthquake, including nearly 50 community health clinics whose vital equipment used to store vaccines, such as refrigerators and coolers, was destroyed under the debris.

UNICEF provided cold chain equipment to several health centres to ensure their capacity to provide regular vaccination and maintenance of the vaccines. A massive measles vaccination campaign was also conducted in the immediate weeks after the quake, targeting 90,000 children throughout the region.  

Public health messaging was seen as critical. Leaflets were distributed and advertisements were printed in local newspapers and aired on radio stations to alert those affected to possible health risks. This included distributing information to companies to restrict donations of formula milk which is not only nutritionally inferior to breast milk but can further endanger the lives of babies is mixed with contaminated water in disaster areas.

"Public health services are functioning normally now," says the head of the provinces Disaster Management Agency, Ade Edward, adding that 98 per cent of community health centres returned to normal operations within two weeks of the quake.

The experiences of Padang 12 months ago will play a part in the nation's ability to respond to future crises.

Health services do appear to be running normally in all the temporary health centres established after the crisis, with enough medicine and vaccine stocks, says Efrida Aziz, the head of the West Sumatra's Health Department. The province's immunization plan targeting 97,177 infants has reached more than 90 per cent this year, despite the challenges.

Authorities have strengthened routine immunization activities, introduced additional immunization and the mobilization of entire communities to vaccinate their children.

According to Mrs. Azis, the department continues the surveillance of communicable diseases in the province and ensures the continuity of the vaccination programmes. "We will continue to undertake vaccinations not only during a state of disaster," she says.

Sitting on the Pacific region’s infamous Ring of Fire, Indonesia is on a continual state of alert for earthquakes; the experiences of Padang 12 months ago will play a part in the nation’s ability to respond to future crises, and while the work in West Sumatra to physically rebuild surely continues, the evidence is that for the province’s children key services are up and running again, and the damage to their daily lives has been contained.





A mother's story - a year on

Read more about Resmanita and her baby boy's lives one year after the West Sumatra earthquake. Click here.

Related links

Read more in the West Sumatra quake fact sheet. Download here.  


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