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ChildFund sends team to Earthquake Struck Java


ChildFund sends team to Earthquake Struck Central Java

A New Zealander is heading the ChildFund emergency team despatched to earthquake struck central Java. Renzo Benfatto will take on the role of ChildFund’s head of emergency management in the disaster zone. Renzo lead ChildFund’s Sri Lanka tsunami response and only recently returned to New Zealand after heading the ChildFund emergency famine response in the Eastern Horn of Africa.

As the size of the devastation becomes apparent the crowded streets of Yogyakarta and the surrounding community, already on alert for the potential eruption of Mount Merapi, have become home to tens of thousands of earthquake survivors.

Early Saturday morning a 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit in the sea just off the island of Java, killing more than 5,000 people, injuring 30,000 more, and displacing nearly 200,000 people from their homes. Some 3,000 homes were completely destroyed in and around Yogyakarta city. It is estimated that 40 percent of those affected by the quake are children.

The area hit by the quake covers hundreds of square miles of hills, mountains, rice paddies and busy villages, and the historic Yogykarta city. The quake knocked out power facilities in the area, leaving tens of thousands without electricity. The government declared a three-month state of emergency as hospitals were overwhelmed by injured patients. Aftershocks continue to rattle buildings and pouring rain is making the situation even more difficult.

Although the area is earthquake-prone many people, especially children, had not experienced a big earthquake before. Coping with the loss of loved ones, their homes and schools has been compounded by the sheer shock of the disaster and rumours of an impending tsunami. The region had been on high alert in recent weeks over the potential eruption of nearby Mount Merapi. Families in the area feared that the earthquake could set off a volcanic eruption. The Indonesian archipelago is part of the “ring of fire” of active volcanoes and tectonic activity.

ChildFund is currently assessing the immediate and long term needs of earthquake survivors. ChildFund operates on-going projects in some of the communities directly affected by the earthquake in Central Java and Yogyakarta Provinces.

While the relief effort has begun, the need to help children continues to be acute. “There is a major need to ensure that the children’s needs are covered. Interventions like ChildFund’s Child Centered Spaces are vital,” says Richard Thwaites, who is co-ordinating ChildFund’s earthquake response. Child Centered Spaces provide an opportunity for children to heal through participating in normal childhood activities such as play, group activities and study sessions. ChildFund will work with communities and local government officials to open Child Centered Spaces in areas where the need is greatest.

Other needs include safe drinking water, medical teams and supplies, sanitation, and emergency goods. Many families lost not only their homes, but their livelihoods and their access to food supplies. In total, the Indonesian government is estimating relief and rebuilding costs could top $107 million. The Indonesian government has pledged $8 million itself.

The earthquake is one of the worst disasters to strike Indonesia in recent times. The worst being the Dec. 26, 2004 earthquake and tsunami, which left 170,000 people dead or missing around Aceh, in the western-most part of Indonesia.


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