300,000 Indonesians Displaced After Volcano Wreaks Havoc

Action Against Hunger assists thousands of survivors of Mount Merapi eruption
©REUTERS/Beawiharta, courtesy www.alertnet.org

YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA—A large tsunami followed by the eruption of Mount Merapi, just weeks apart, has left Indonesia in turmoil. Hundreds are dead, and more than 300,000 displaced. Thousands continue to flee because of widespread concern that the volcano, Yogyakarta, will erupt again.

With unsanitary conditions posing a major public health risk, global humanitarian organization Action Against Hunger | ACF International is focused on controlling epidemics by distributing safe drinking water and ensuring basic sanitation. Providing emergency access to hygiene materials, water supplies and latrines remains critical, as cases of diarrhoea—which can lead to dehydration, malnutrition, or ultimately, death if left untreated—have already been reported.

Action Against Hunger is distributing 1,000 hygiene kits, purified water and jerry cans to facilitate the collection of water from tanks within the camps. Emergency latrines have also been installed.

Displacement camps designed to accommodate 40,000 people are packed with over 300,000. Families have been forced to abandon their homes, crops and livestock, with many cramming themselves into mosques, schools and other makeshift shelters.

"We are facing two major problems,” said Fabrice Carbonne, Asia Program Manager for Action Against Hunger, “First, the sheer amount of people spread across different areas; there are more than 70 camps in total, making the rescue operation very complex. The situation is also in constant flux as the evacuation perimeters surrounding the volcano continue to expand.”

"If the evacuation perimeter extends to 30km, it will include the city of Yogyakarta,” said Laetitia Luzi, Indonesia Country Director Indonesia for Action Against Hunger. “This will cause an even greater influx of displaced people. At this stage, the situation is already catastrophic—in just 24 hours the number of displaced has doubled. The camps are so crowded and the return to normalcy will take months; crops have been destroyed, animals are dead, water is polluted and the houses invaded by lava ash will not be inhabitable for a long time.”