Deadly earthquake and tsunami hit Indonesia

UNICEF is working with the Government to get help to children and families.

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A boy stands among the ruins of a building destroyed by the recent tsunami in Palu, Indonesia.
UNICEF/UN0245446/Wilander

01 October 2018

NEW: UNICEF announces arrival of education material for Sulawesi earthquake and tsunami affected communities

JAKARTA, Indonesia – On 28 September, a 7.4 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Indonesia triggered a tsunami, affecting around 1.5 million people on the island of Sulawesi.*

UNICEF is working with the Government to get help and lifesaving supplies to affected children and families, like Haviz, 7, pictured above.  

While the full extent of the damage is still emerging, more than 2,000 people have died and more than 80,000 displaced in Central Sulawesi*. More than 2,700 schools have been affected in Central Sulawesi, directly impacting the education of 270,000 children.**

In Palu, the most affected city, more than half of the population was displaced, telecommunication remains an issue and access to affected areas has been challenging due to rubble. Communities in more remote areas have been cut off by broken roads, landslides and crippled communications, as aid begins to trickle through. The situation for tens of thousands of children remains extremely precarious in the days ahead. 

Many have lost their loved ones, homes and neighbourhoods. Around 1.5 million people have been affected.

“With each new report about this devastating earthquake and tsunami, our concern increases for the safety of children in Palu, Donggala and other sites hit by the disaster," said Amanda Bissex of UNICEF Indonesia. "UNICEF Indonesia, in partnership with the Government, is doing everything it can to respond to this emergency, which hit the country just one month after another powerful earthquake resulted in hundreds of deaths in Lombok.”

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Rescue workers on Indonesian island of Sulawesi.
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Rescue workers evacuate earthquake victims in West Palu, Indonesia, after an earthquake and tsunami hit the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.
UN0239947
UNICEF/UN0239947/Tirto.id/@Arimacswilander
Nurul Istikhoroh, 15, is rescued after being trapped and submerged in water under what was left of her home for almost 48 hours. 48,000 people have been displaced by the earthquake and tsunami that struck the Indonesian island of Sulawesi on 28 September.

Getting help to affected children and families

UNICEF is working closely with the Government to bring help and lifesaving supplies to children and families. 

"Since the earthquake and tsunami struck Sulawesi, UNICEF has been mobilizing resources to support the Government's emergency response,” said Ms. Bissex. “In the coming days, we will also set up child-friendly spaces, temporary classrooms and distribute recreational materials to help children cope in the aftermath of the disaster.”

Reunite children with their families

Approximately 5,000 children are separated from their families.** UNICEF is working with the Ministry of Social Affairs to identify separated and unaccompanied children, as well as support family reunification and tracing.

Feed the youngest and most vulnerable

Already high rates of malnutrition in this region could get dangerously worse. UNICEF is working with the Ministry of Health to support infant and young child feeding, assist breastfeeding mothers, and assess the ongoing needs of the survivors.

Provide clean water

Access to clean water and proper sanitation is fundamental to preventing the spread of disease. In the absence of a well-functioning water system, UNICEF is planning to deploy several mobile water treatment plant units to the affected areas.

Comfort children

Providing mental support to children in emergencies, giving them safe places to play and learn, and helping them get back to school as quickly as possible, goes a long way to helping them recover.


Fundraising appeal

UNICEF has launched an appeal to cover education, health, nutrition, sanitation and child protection needs for the current emergency, as well as the lasting impact of the Lombok earthquake one month earlier, which killed 550 people and displaced 340,000 people. The funds will provide services for an estimated 475,000 children, as part of the response led by the Government of Indonesia.

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Around the world, UNICEF responds to humanitarian emergencies to bring lifesaving help to children and families. In 2017, UNICEF responded to 337 humanitarian emergencies – from conflicts to natural disasters – in 102 countries.

* Figures as of 9 October 2018.

** Figures as of 10 October 2018.