Ready to Respond: Joint UNICEF and WFP preparedness investments in Indonesia and the Aceh earthquake response

Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelago, with a population of over 252 million people spread across some 18,000 islands. The country is one of the most disaster-prone in the world, regularly experiencing weather-related calamities and more earthquakes per year than any other country on earth.

Faced with these continual risks, the Government of Indonesia is taking proactive measures to ensure populations receive appropriate and rapid assistance when a disaster strikes. Since 2014, national authorities have been closely partnering with WFP and UNICEF through the Ready to Respond project to implement preparedness actions that positively enhanced the country’s readiness.

Those actions proved useful when on 7 December 2016, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit Aceh Province in the West and resulted in 104 deaths, 85,133 displaced people and 7,814 damaged houses.

The Governor of the Province swiftly declared an emergency response status, four nationally-led clusters were rapidly activated and national, provincial and local governments were able to handle the response in an efficient manner, with no international assistance needed or requested.

The Ready to Respond project, supported by DFID, helped in providing faster, better and cheaper relief operations through a range of preparedness investments:strategic prepositioning of response equipment, establishment of rapid response teams, reinforcing supply systems for aid delivery, and enhancing people’s skills and awareness for disaster responses.

During the project, a team of WFP logistics experts was set up and is now ready to be deployed at 12 hours’ notice anywhere in Indonesia to complement Government’s emergency responses as required. In fact, logisticians were deployed the day after the Aceh earthquake and provided technical recommendations to the National Disaster Management Agency on logistics response operations.

In addition, WFP’s long term support to the Government led to the establishment of a National Logistics Cluster; which also deployed a response team following the earthquake. The Head of the Disaster Management Authority reiterated his satisfaction of its collaboration with WFP, while lessons from this response are being incorporated into Standard Operating Procedures for the National Logistics Cluster’s Response Team.

Besides, WFP had facilitated the involvement of the Indonesian Association of Freight Forwarders (ALFI) into the National Logistics Cluster. After the earthquake, ALFI was able to set up two operations cells in Aceh and Medan that provided logistics support for incoming relief supplies. The cells were actively supported by private transport companies, reflecting the ever increasing role of private logistics service providers in emergency preparedness.

Beyond their use in the Aceh response, further preparatory measures of the Ready to Respond project remain in place, with some being used in other emergency responses:

Prepositioning of operational equipment that will facilitate a rapid scaling up for aid delivery right after an emergency occurs: material is placed in disaster-prone areas such as West Java and Banten, and would otherwise have to be airlifted at considerable cost from the UN depot in Malaysia. It includes essential telecommunication kits, basic storage structures, mobile power source and office supplies for rapid establishment of logistics operations in the field.

UNICEF also purchased items for child protection and education which were pre-positioned with support from the Government and NGOs. Prior training held with these partners enabled a quick use of the items and the quick establishment of child friendly and learning spaces to support children affected by the flash floods in West Java in September 2016.

Another important preparedness initiative carried under the project were the assessments of existing logistics capacities in Sumatra and Java Islands to identify potential gaps in delivery of humanitarian aid. Conducted together with WFP, Government agencies, NGOs, military and academic partners, these exercises collected critical information on existing transportation infrastructure, logistics service providers, airports, seaports and storage facilities that could potentially be used to supply food assistance in future disasters.

WFP also helped establish two provincial clusters to foster logistics arrangements at local level in West Sumatra and Yogyakarta provinces. These structures help bringing together all logistics actors present in the provinces to facilitate joint planning prior to emergencies and coordination during responses. Notably, as these setups proved a success in providing faster and better response, other provinces have requested similar arrangements to be replicated in different parts of the country.

WFP and UNICEF also conducted training and simulations of disasters situations to reinforce people’s readiness to act in case of large emergencies. Over 250 partners from Government and civil society in 8 provinces attended training on education, child protection, nutrition, and water and sanitation in emergencies. Staff were also trained to design and manage response operations and to use mobile logistics and telecommunications equipment.

These exercises have proved crucial in ensuring that people have the right skills and tools to deliver quick and efficient assistance when needed. For instance, in North Sumatra in February 2015, Government staff and a group of frontline psychosocial support workers who had received training from UNICEF were rapidly deployed to support displaced people. Other trainees who received training on nutrition in May 2015, have also responded to multiple small emergencies providing support on nutrition to affected populations.

Throughout 2016 and until today, WFP and UNICEF continued to provide expert and technical support to the Government of Indonesia and other partners, contributing to enhance the country’s preparedness in facing future disasters and providing faster and better assistance to those in need.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:

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