Around one million Indonesians are affected by natural disasters every year. Despite significant government investment in early warning systems and disaster management, the impact of the 2009 earthquake in West Sumatra showed that much more needs to be done. Oxfam’s post-earthquake advocacy work aimed to build understanding of how gender inequality shapes vulnerability and to promote women’s participation in designing the emergency response. Oxfam conducted research into the differential impact of the earthquake on men and women supported the UN and the government of Indonesia to integrate this information into their own responses.
The Republic of Indonesia is a vast archipelago of thousands of islands spread between Asia and Australia. It has a population of more than 230 million, although fewer than half of the islands are inhabited. Indonesia has made advances in reducing poverty over the past few decades and is now rated as a middle-income country. The country’s gross national income per capita rose from $2,200 in 2000 to $3,720 in 20091. It ranks in the top five countries that have made the fastest progress in human development from 1970 to 2010, on income and non-income dimensions.2 Important pro-democracy legislation has been enacted and the country now has a free media. Despite this progress, the increase in prosperity has been highly uneven. Poverty levels remain high and more than 32 million Indonesians currently live below the poverty line, with approximately half of all households remaining clustered around the national poverty line set at 200,262 rupiahs per month ($22).3
Oxfam has been working in Indonesia since 1972, focusing on creating sustainable livelihoods, promoting gender equality, and improving disaster preparedness and mitigation. A key objective for Oxfam’s future work is that the poorest and most vulnerable people are better able to cope with shocks, including human-made and natural disasters and the negative impacts of climate change. Oxfam has prioritised support for women’s capacities to prepare for, respond to, and lead in disaster situations.
Lying near the intersection of shifting tectonic plates, Indonesia is prone to natural hazards, including tropical flooding, droughts, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. The country is rated at ‘extreme risk’ and ranked second (after Bangladesh) in terms of vulnerability on Maplecroft's Natural Disaster Risk Index 2010.4 On average, one million Indonesians are affected by natural disasters every year. From 1980 to 2008, there were 293 natural disasters, which caused an estimated $21.2bn in economic losses. The government has made efforts to reduce the risks people face from natural disasters. Early warning systems have been developed, and in 2007, a new Law on Disaster Management (Law 24/2007) was enacted as well as regulations and guidelines for its implementation. The government also established a National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB), replicated in some of the country’s provinces. Yet the aftermath of the 2009 earthquake showed that existing efforts did not significantly reduce the risks or impact on people’s lives. Much more needs to be done to build people’s resilience to future disasters.