Indonesia: Yogyakarta commemoration - Recovery from natural disasters must be driven by communities, says International Federation

Communities devastated by natural disasters must be empowered to lead their own recovery if humanitarian interventions are to be effective, meaningful and sustainable, says the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies on the first year commemoration of the Yogyakarta earthquake.

The magnitude 6.3 earthquake that struck near the Javanese city on 27 May, 2006, claimed more than 5,000 lives and left 1.1 million people homeless. In all, approximately 475,000 houses were damaged or destroyed.

A rapid distribution of tents and tarpaulins in the days and weeks immediately after the disaster ensured that emergency shelter needs were quickly met. However, an International Federation survey found that many people were worried about the gap between these temporary solutions and the construction of new, permanent homes - a process being funded by the Indonesian government.

In response to these concerns, the International Federation launched its early recovery programme to help communities address transitional shelter needs. The programme has seen dozens of affected communities mobilize and manage the construction of their own low cost and quake-resilient shelters. More than 14,500 shelters have been completed with the financial and technical support of the Indonesian Red Cross and the International Federation, including some individual Red Cross Societies.

"We know from other large scale operations such as the tsunami and the Pakistan earthquake that recovery should be driven by affected-communities, not imposed on them," explained Oystein Larsen, head of the International Federation's operation in Yogyakarta. "By placing people are at the centre of their own recovery, we ensure that their real needs are being met, that resources are used as efficiently as possible and that solutions are sustainable," he said.

The early recovery programme also aims to leave communities stronger against the threat of future disasters.

"Recovery must not build back old vulnerabilities," continued Larsen. "Of course we can't reduce future earthquakes, but we can reduce their impact by, for example, ensuring that new constructions are earthquake resilient."

The shelters are made out of local materials such as bamboo and rope and cost the equivalent of around 185 Swiss francs ($150 USD/ €118). They can be constructed in four to five days and should last up to six years or until government funded permanent homes are completed.

In addition to the shelters, the International Federation has also provided emergency relief, water and sanitation and medical assistance to almost 125,000 families across the devastated region.

For further information, or to set up interviews, please contact:

Matthew Cochrane, Media Officer Tel: + 41 22 730 4426 / +41 79 308 9804

Media Service Duty Phone Tel. + 41 79 416 38 81

The Geneva-based International Federation promotes the humanitarian activities of 185 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies among vulnerable people. By coordinating international disaster relief and encouraging development support, it seeks to prevent and alleviate human suffering. The Federation, National Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross together, constitute the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

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