Children in earthquake and tsunami-hit communities face growing risk of disease outbreak and water-borne illness, warns Save the Children
Communities have been devastated by the earthquake and tsunami which Disaster Response Officials believe to have killed over 1300 people in Indonesia’s Sulawesi island. Families now face growing health risks as the full scale of the crisis becomes known.
Save the Children and its local partner in Indonesia are warning of the potential for an outbreak of disease or illness in disaster-ravaged communities, with clean water supplies running low and thousands of families living in makeshift shelters and cramped evacuation centres.
“The situation right now is a recipe for disaster, with thousands of people suddenly made homeless and all their possessions destroyed. There is debris and rubbish everywhere, and it’s difficult for families to maintain hygiene standards, not to mention having access to food and clean drinking water for children and babies,” Save the Children’s Program Implementation Director Tom Howells said. “We’re really concerned that we could start seeing a growing number of children getting sick with illnesses like diarrhoea, as is often the case in the aftermath of crises like this where the scale of damage is so high. Ensuring children and families have access to sufficient hygiene levels is critical in the humanitarian response, and will go a long way in helping prevent illness and disease, which is the last thing needed by those who have already lost so much.”
A team of staff from Save the Children’s partner in Indonesia Yayasan Sayangi Tunas Cilik (YSTC) are in Palu, the capital of central Sulawesi and the epicenter of the crisis. “The destruction and loss is absolutely heart-wrenching, and the suffering on a scale that’s hard to fathom. It will be a long recovery process,” Mr Howells said.
“Save the Children, through YSTC, will distribute hygiene items like soap, buckets and jerry cans in the coming days so families can keep clean and store water, as well as plastic sheets and rope for temporary shelter.
“We will also set up special playgroups to provide children with a safe place and respite from the panic of the rescue mission that’s underway, as well as supporting children to go back to school, which is the best place for children to be.”
Save the Children has been working in Indonesia since 1976, and has a long history responding to humanitarian disasters in the country, including the recent earthquakes in Lombok and the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.
Save the Children has several spokespeople available. To set up interviews contact Evan Schuurman in Melbourne on +61 406 117 937, Fajar Jasmin in Jakarta on +62 811 881 9912, or Antonia Roupell on +44 7879 885327