AmeriCares Relief Worker Sends News from Earthquake Stricken Indonesia

Rani and Rika try to remain brave despite missing their parents, who are in the hospital recovering from earthquake related injuries.

AmeriCares Emergency Relief Expert, Puji Sutrisno, has been on the ground in Indonesia since deadly earthquakes struck Indonesia’s island of Sumatra.

Sutrisno is a veteran relief worker who spearheaded a number of programs in Indonesia for AmeriCares response to the 2004 Southeast Asian tsunami.

He has been in the hard hit city of Padang helping doctors and health care professionals with disaster relief and emergency medical aid. Donate to help us deliver critical aid >>

Here is his first hand account from earthquake-affected communities.

I was in Jakarta when I felt the first earthquake and I knew it must have hurt many people. My first instinct was to see how I could help. Soon I was in touch with AmeriCares to secure critical disaster relief supplies and contacts.

I went on to Padang not far from the center of the earthquake where I worked with doctors and health care professionals to assist with relief efforts. Hospitals in the region were damaged and the Dr. M. Jamil Hospital, which is the main hospital for the city, lay in ruins. More than 1,000 patients remain in tents serving as makeshift medical wards.

The doctors and nurses where doing everything they could to help treat the sick and injured. Many people suffered broken bones, concussions and other severe trauma from the earthquakes' terrible shocks. Others were patients at the hospital when the disaster struck and were still in need of critical care.

Working long into the night, the city was eerily dark—there was no electricity for almost a million people. There was no Internet service, so all of my communications were on my mobile device. Everyone who could leave left the city to stay with relatives. Few children remained and the city was very lonely – like a ghost town.

After visiting the hospitals, I attended the United Nations (U.N.) health cluster meeting and was briefed on the situation. This meeting enabled me to actively coordinate AmeriCares emergency response with the Ministry of Health, the Emergency Crisis Center and local partners. 

Heavy rains caused more landslides and limited relief access in the outlying areas, particularly rural villages. I saw many houses reduced to rubble. Families huddled in tents in front of their demolished homes. I met so many people waiting for news from rescue teams. Their hands were cut and bruised from digging through mud and debris during their frantic search efforts.

A few children remained in the villages, temporarily orphaned by the earthquakes as their parents recovered from injuries sustained during the disaster. I met two little girls, Rani and Rika, who were staying with their uncle while her parents recovered from serious injuries at one of the region’s remaining hospitals. The girls put on a brave face, but missed their parents and were scared of the dark since electricity still had not been restored.

I am hopeful families like Rani and Rika’s will recover from the devastating earthquake, but Indonesians desperately need more help to ease the suffering brought about by this catastrophic disaster.

AmeriCares emergency relief efforts in Indonesia continue today. They include securing local donations of medicines and medical supplies from manufacturers in Indonesia as well as coordinating deliveries of medical assistance and other aid from AmeriCares distribution warehouses in the United States, India and Europe. Puji Sutrisno will continue to work closely with hospitals, donors and the U.N. Health Cluster to identify and deliver lifesaving medicines and critical supplies.

Update as of November 3, 2009: AmeriCares continues to help survivors of the recent typhoons, tsunami and floods in Asia and the South Pacific.  And we also continue our on-going efforts to provide lifesaving medical and humanitarian aid to people in poor and conflict-ridden countries struggling for daily survival around the world.