Ejodia Kakoensi was office manager and project coordinator of Johanniter International Assistance in Indonesia from 2014 to 2016. She comes from the north of Sulawesi Island, affected by the earthquake, and will travel to the disaster region in the coming days to coordinate Johanniter's relief efforts. In this interview she describes the current situation.
Have you been able to talk to the affected people?
Yes, since yesterday I have received messages from friends and acquaintances in Palu. According to them, food and clean water are particularly scarce. In addition, there is no electricity or fuel, which hinders communication and transport. Most of them reported that their houses collapsed during the earthquake and were then swallowed by the ground, which they said had liquefied.
As things stand at present, what aid is needed to help those affected?
In addition to medical aid, the people need food, drinking water and jerry can for clean storage. Furthermore, due to the lack of electricity and fuel, they need battery-independent flashlights and solar power lamps. Women need feminine napkins and children under the age of five need baby food.
How are safe and rescue operations progressing four days after the earthquake?
According to the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) the response is taking place even to the areas that previously difficult to reach such as Sigi regency. The progress in in most affected areas such as Palu and Donggala is underway. Supplies of 6 basic needs such as food, water, medical kits, fuel, proper clothes, body bags are being sent though cannot cover all areas. Dead toll increased to 1,234. Communication as well as transportation are getting better. For international aid, government has stated that Balikpapan airport, the closest neighbor in Borneo island will be the entry point.
How does the national emergency system work? Is international assistance urgently needed?
The BNPB, as the leading agency, coordinates closely with the relevant ministries and the Indonesian Red Cross. In addition, it cooperates with other national and international organisations that are now active in Indonesia. The Indonesian President welcomed the international assistance to reach the remote areas quickly, as the scale of the disaster is considered massive.
Johanniter was active in Indonesia in the field of disaster prevention. Have this kind of activities had a positive impact on the current situation and prevented worse things?
Central Sulawesi as many other places in Indonesia is prone to disaster. However, the major issue from the area has been religious and communal conflict. The mitigation and natural disaster preparedness was not the main concern. This is why, from what I personally learned, the lack of disaster awareness has contributed to the situation.