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Cordaid NL

Sulawesi 2 weeks later: “It’s a nightmare over here”

As Dutch public fundraising campaigns for Sulawesi are gathering speed, aid efforts are scaling up as well. The death toll still rises and it appears that thousands of people are still stuck in unreachable areas. Aid workers of Cordaid’s local partner organizations do everything they can to help victims with food, water, medicine and blankets.

(Relief workers remove bodies of the Sulawesi earthquake victims from under the rubble. © Caritas Internationalis)

One of these organizations is Yayasan Merah Puti (YMP). Edy Wicaksono works for YMP. With his volunteer team he has set up three victim reception locations. Edy sounds the alarm: “Our stock is in danger of running out, while the demand for more relief items increased daily.

There are no blankets, no communication is possible, we can not wash ourselves. Most of all our children and the elderly urgently need assistance.

Ardi Tahir

The YMP aid worker describes the situation in and around the badly hit city of Palu as an apocalyptic  scene. “There is almost no electricity, no petrol, all stores are closed. People are panicking. The greatest concern is that no more food will be available in the future. Aid organizations distribute food and non-food items. But there are so many victims, it’s not sufficient. It’s a nightmare over here.”

Refugees in their own city

Thousands of Palu residents have become refugees in their own city. In reception centres people share the stories about the minutes and hours after the disaster. Like Salma (35), who took refuge with her 5-year-old daughter in the courtyard of an army hospital.


Salma and her daughter.

“Immediately after the earthquake we ran up the mountain,” says Salma. Fortunately she was aware a tsunami was on its way. “We were safe at the army hospital, but there was nothing to provide to the displaced. No tents or blankets. I saw how people were operated by doctors, without any anaesthesia.”

Ardi Tahir (48) was at home with his family when the earthquake disrupted his life forever. He left everything behind and brought his family to safety at the nearest mosque. “After that I went looking for drinking water, because that was nowhere to be found”, says Ardi. “In the end I took water from a reservoir of the municipality. To eat we had some bananas and corn.”


Ardi Tahir.

One of Ardi’s sons is badly traumatized by the disaster. He is also worried about all his other relatives. “There are no blankets, no communication is possible, we can not wash ourselves. Most of all our children and the elderly urgently need assistance.”

Local aid workers provide assistance

The Indonesian government wants the aid to be carried out as much as possible by local organizations or organizations registered in Indonesia.

Since the 2004 tsunami, Cordaid provided emergency assistance training  to up a number of local partner organizations in Indonesia. This resulted in the birth of the Emergency Response Capacity Building Network (ERCB). The ERCB intervened in the aftermath of the Lombok earthquake last month. Some of its members are now distributing food, medicine and blankets to hundreds of people on Sulawesi. Cordaid will support ERCB members and local Caritas organisations with the proceeds of the Dutch national fundraising campaign Giro555.

Cordaid increases resilience

Natural disasters increase in number and frequency. Often, the same areas are hit time after time. This is why in disaster-prone areas Cordaid not only provides emergency relief but also tries to make communities more resilient to future disasters.

In practice, this means that Cordaid trains people to respond effectively in an emergency situation, develop evacuation plans and warning systems and helps to rebuild infrastructure that must be able to withstand new disasters. This approach reduces dependence on foreign aid and makes communities more resilient.

The coming months Cordaid will continue to work with local organizations for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami on Sulawesi.

Visit our Humanitarian Aid web page, or go to our Resilience page.