Indonesia: Hundreds of families still living in tents after Java earthquake

Sri Wahyuni, The Jakarta Post, Yogyakarta

Hundreds of families left homeless by the powerful earthquake that devastated Yogyakarta almost a year ago are still living under makeshift tents.

Executive secretary of the national technical team for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of post-earthquake Yogyakarta and Central Java, Danang Parikesit, said of the 300,000 families left homeless by the May 27 quake last year, some 3,000 are still living in tents. "They are scattered across both provinces."

Several factors account for this figure, he said, including the reconstruction fund distribution system adopted by both provinces, and misidentification of recipients in transitional shelters.

Funds were distributed through a priority system, whereby community groups were entrusted to decide which residents would receive the first batch of disbursements.

In many cases, a lottery was drawn to decide who would receive which batch of funding.

Unfortunately, only 5 percent of nearly 100,000 families whose houses were damaged by the earthquake have received the second batch of disbursement.

"The rest, or 95 percent, have only received the first batch, which is only about Rp 4.8 million of the total Rp 20 million they are suppose to receive," Danang said.

The earthquake killed some 5,800 people, injured more than 50,000 and displaced more than 1.5 million. More than 300,000 family homes were destroyed.

The overall estimate of the damage is US$3.1 billion. It is the third largest damage estimate caused by a natural disaster in a developing country, after the Aceh tsunami with $4.7 billion in damage and an earthquake in Turkey with $10.3 billion.

In reconstructing the quake-hit regions, the central government adopted a "one-step" policy through directly providing survivors with permanent housing rather than transitional shelters (T-shelters).

As a result, most of the humanitarian aid, which focused on providing survivors with T-shelters, used building materials that could be reused later to rebuild permanent houses.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), for example, has so far helped provide 14,550 T-shelters for survivors in Klaten, Central Java, and Bantul, Yogyakarta.

The International Organization for Migration provided a similar number of T-shelters in both regions, while Muslim Aid provided more than 1,000 T-shelters in Banguntapan, Bantul.

The total number of T-shelters built by both inter-governmental, national and international non-governmental organizations so far has reached approximately 75,000.

The central government, according to Danang, plans to finish the reconstruction of Yogyakarta and Central Java within three years, with a focus in the first two years on housing.

"We hope the executing teams at both the provincial and regency levels will be able to rebuild every damaged home by the end of this year," Danang said.

The central government so far has disbursed Rp 2.7 trillion in reconstruction funding from its 2006 state budget. The same amount of funding has also been allocated in this year's state budget.

The amount allocated for the 2008 budget is yet to be decided but will focus mainly on economic recovery.

Aside from the state budget, the reconstruction and rehabilitation program is also being funded by the Urban Poverty Alleviation Program of the Public Housing Ministry, whose funding comes from the World Bank, and a grant from the Java Reconstruction Fund (JRF).

Danang said JRF alone has planned to rebuild some 17,000 homes, 16,000 of which are for quake survivors in Yogyakarta and Central Java and another 1,000 for tsunami survivors in Pangandaran, West Java.

In total, JRF has allocated $76 million in reconstruction funding, of which $60 million will be used to rebuild damaged and collapsed houses. The remaining $16 million will be spent on livelihood programs.

Danang said some 88 percent of displaced families in Yogyakarta and 80 percent in Central Java have been moved to permanent houses.

The rest are either staying with other families, living in T-shelters built by humanitarian organizations, have moved to other areas or are living in makeshift tents, he said.

"Many survivors have used their own funds to finish rebuilding their homes, or at least make them safe to permanently live in again."

The willingness and capacity of people in the community, according to Danang, has also accounted for the relatively quick recovery of the earthquake-hit regions in both provinces.

In fact, Danang said, the government supplied only about 40 percent of the total funding needed to recover from the disaster.

"The rest depended very much on the survivors' willingness to revive and recover on their on feet. The government's funding was only intended to stimulate the initial recovery effort."