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AmeriCares responded to two different disasters in Indonesia that occurred just one day apart in October—a tsunami that devastated the Mentawai Islands off the coast of Sumatra and the volcanic eruption of Mt. Merapi in Central Java.
With six years of emergency response and reconstruction experience in the area, AmeriCares dispatched its Indonesian emergency coordinator to assess the needs and prepare a response with the local health authorities. The relief effort focused on treating survivors and supplying health workers with medicines that would extend care beyond the emergency phase for the thousands still left homeless.
AmeriCares worked with its partners to provide local health care facilities in both disaster areas with medical supplies for wounds as well as antibiotics, analgesics and vitamins — more than 1,200 courses of treatment to people who were injured during the disasters, or who became ill while living in camps and temporary shelters.
“At the first reports of the tsunami and the Mt. Merapi eruption, AmeriCares was in contact with our partners and local authorities to assess needs and help treat injured survivors,” reports Ella Gudwin, AmeriCares Vice President of Emergency Response. “We determined that families of both disasters would be living in camps and shelters long after initial relief efforts ended, so our priority was to provide medical aid to the improvised health posts and medical teams, helping them continue to care for the displaced families.”
One of four health posts in a soccer stadium providing basic care to evacuees in the area of the volcano.
The Two Disasters
A 7.2-magnitude earthquake triggered a tsunami in the Mentawai Islands that washed six coastal villages completely into the Indian Ocean, killing 500 people and initially leaving 15,000 homeless. As many as 7,000 people remained in 26 temporary shelters in and around a main island town until reconstruction efforts allowed them to return home.
Hundreds of miles from the earthquake’s epicenter, a series of volcanic eruptions of Mt. Merapi in Central Java killed 250 people and forced the evacuation of 400,000 people. An estimated 25,000 people, who lived within a five-kilometer radius of the volcano, remained in camps and shelters since their homes were either destroyed or badly damaged by the hot ash and lava flows.
AmeriCares has historically responded to major disasters in Indonesia. Following the October 2009 Sumatra earthquake, AmeriCares provided medical aid and is providing for the reconstruction of a local hospital. Supporting recovery from the devastating 2004 tsunami, AmeriCares undertook a five-year reconstruction initiative. Programs included rebuilding hospitals and clinics, schools, water systems, training health workers and developing livelihoods for survivors.