Deadly earthquake and tsunami hit Indonesia

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

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A girl stands among the ruins of her home which was destroyed by the 28 September earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia.
UNICEF/UN0251785/Wilander

01 October 2018

NEW: Sulawesi Earthquake & Tsunami: One month on from the disaster, thousands of children still homeless, out-of-school and in need of humanitarian support

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.  

While the full extent of the damage is still emerging, more than 2,000 people have died and about 212,000 displaced.* At least 1,200 schools from early childhood to secondary schools have been affected, impacting 184,094 students and 12,988 teachers.*

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. 

“Almost one month after the disaster, life for hundreds of thousands of children in Central Sulawesi is still far from back to normal,” said Debora Comini, UNICEF Representative to Indonesia. “Children remain homeless, out of school and in need of psychosocial support to help them deal with the trauma they experienced. Together with government partners, we are scaling up our response to help as many children as possible, as quickly as we can.”   

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. UNICEF and partners are working closely with the provincial Government to coordinate and respond to immediate needs in 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.

Indonesia earthquake and tsunami. Students outside their temporary UNICEF school tent.
UNICEF/UN0251766/Wilander
Read next

Back to school one month after Indonesia’s earthquake and tsunami: Around 184,000 students have been affected, including 11-year-old Sophia

After the disaster in Sulawesi: UNICEF Emergency Health Specialist Ridwan Gustiana reports from Indonesia 

Displaced families face aftermath of Indonesia earthquake and tsunami: Helping children and families who have lost almost everything


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 the affected children and families, as part of the response led by the Government of Indonesia.

Learn more about the appeal

Read UNICEF Indonesia Humanitarian Situation Report (23/10/2018)

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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 23 October 2018.

** Figures as of 16 October 2018.