Summary of major revisions made to emergency plan of action:
Initially, all activities listed in the Emergency Plan of Action (EPoA) were meant to be implemented in evacuation centres during the emergency situation. Through its intervention in different sectors, PMI has managed to bridge gaps in the emergency response. PMI has assisted with evacuations, provided first-aid services, distributed NFIs provided by PMI NHQ, and conducted psychosocial support (PSS) activities.
The emergency situation was initially predicted to last for several months. Although the volcanic activity remained high, as the situation became prolonged and the warning level remained the same, people decided to return to their houses and the evacuation shelters were closed. Indonesia’s Centre for Vulcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation states that eruptions and ashfall are still taking place quite frequently.
Due to on the ground needs and circumstances changing since the original EPoA, excess funds have been identified to assist response efforts and activities that target new or resurfaced needs. The excess funds were a result of changing circumstances regarding initial planned response activities including evacuation center management and reduced or unused activities in search and rescue activities. PMI was to manage several evacuation centers but only managed one evacuation center in the end as per the Indonesian government’s instruction. Additionally, due to many people having independently evacuated or with the support of government agencies, the budget for Search and Rescue has been underspent. The budget which has been plotted for months of Psycho-Social Support (PSS) has also not been fully utilized yet, with evacuation centers closed as evacuees returned to their homes early.
Given that people have returned to their homes, it was recognized that the needs context may have changed. PMI volunteers have therefore gone to villages in the vicinity of the volcano and conducted post-return assessments and observation. The assessment results show that some villagers are having health complications that appear to be associated with exposure of volcanic materials, such as coughing and itchy skin. Moreover, villagers also experience water shortages because the rainwater that they harvested during wet season is contaminated by volcanic materials.
Since dry season is fast approaching, they are at risk of water scarcity. PMI provides clean water to bridge the gap until communities find a more durable solution. Moreover, PMI also found out that almost all villagers are not aware about evacuation routes and meeting points—which is essential considering the risk that they are facing now (reescalation of volcanic activities). PMI has decided to continue providing services; however, the focus will be shifted from evacuation centers—as stated in the EPoA—to the initially displaced households that have returned to their villages in the vicinity of the volcano. Following, the post-return assessments and observation, PMI volunteers will focus on delivering interventions in health and WASH sector. Furthermore, the team in Lembata also proposes an additional activity, in this case, awareness workshop to encourage households to be ready in case of emergency. Finally, since COVID-19 still poses a significant threat, PMI volunteers will continue administering health and hygiene promotion.
This operation update aims to secure extension of time frame for implementation. To execute the adjusted plan, PMI team in Lembata must make some adjustment and rearrange its resources, mainly human resources. As recipients depart from the evacuation centres and return to their 15 village communities, PMI face challenges to work effectively and reach all target villages, therefore PMI needs to recruit more volunteers. Given the time constraints of the current operation, it is highly unlikely that the new plan will be implemented smoothly without an additional time frame for implementation.
Communication issues have been one of the biggest challenges of this operation. To begin with, the affected area is situated in a remote location with limited internet connection and other supporting infrastructures. In addition, volunteers on the field also struggled with communication platforms and software which prevented them from attending coordination meetings, especially during the early stage. Moreover, since volunteers were occupied with activities on the field, they were struggling to produce detailed reports. Initially, it was challenging to monitor implementation on the ground because PMI human resources at headquarter level were stretched rather thinly by the flooding in South Kalimantan and the earthquake in West Sulawesi. Following coordination meeting between NHQ and provincial office, two staff members from the provincial office were deployed to Lembata. It has now been established that during the emergency phase, PMI volunteers have worked to support evacuations, provide first-aid services, conducted PSS sessions, and distribute NFIs. Another significant challenge in this operation is the turnover in the board members at the branch level. There was a period where the new board members were not in place making it difficult for decisions to be made and finances to be approved which contributed to delays in service delivery in sectors such as WASH and health.