Cablegate: Indonesia Earthquake Humanitarian Update #9: Field
OO RUEHDT RUEHPB
DE RUEHJA #1743/01 2890914
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 160914Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY JAKARTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3601
INFO RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 7994
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 1097
RUEHBK/AMEMBASSY BANGKOK 8851
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 JAKARTA 001743
STATE FOR EAP, CA
STATE FOR USAID
USAID FOR DCHA/OFDA CCHAN, ACONVERY, RTHAYER, AND RMT
USAID FOR ANE KROSEN
BANGKOK FOR ADWYER
NSC FOR CPRATT
USUN FOR DMERCADO
GENEVA FOR NKYLOH
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV CASC ECON EAID SENV ID PHUM AEMR ASEC CASC
MARR, PREL, PINR, AMGT, EAID, AQ, LA, RP, TN, VM, WS
SUBJECT: INDONESIA EARTHQUAKE HUMANITARIAN UPDATE #9: FIELD
ASSESSMENTS INDICATE WASH NOT A CRITICAL NEED AT PRESENT
1. The USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team (USAID/DART) field
officer has assessed the need for emergency water, sanitation, and
hygiene (WASH) programs following the September 30 earthquake off
the coast of West Sumatra. While the earthquake damaged water and
sanitation infrastructure, families continue to access water as well
as sanitation facilities. Affected populations are continuing the
longstanding practice of boiling water, thus reducing the
possibility of falling ill from contaminated water. Other cultural
practices, including ablutions, also help protect individuals
against water-borne diseases. Implementing partners of USAID's
Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) are
conducting programs to promote sound hygiene practices. Interviews
with families and field assessments indicate that WASH programs are
not among the pressing needs of most earthquake-affected families at
the present time. While communities do not rank WASH among priority
needs, USAID/OFDA partners will reinforce good WASH behaviors,
monitor WASH conditions, and respond as needed. End summary.
2. Since arriving in Padang following the September 30 earthquake,
the USAID/DART field officer has assessed WASH conditions in 13
villages in Agam, Pariaman, and Padang Pariaman districts. The
field officer has met with Government of Indonesia (GoI)
representatives, interviewed earthquake-affected families, and
assessed physical water points and sanitation infrastructure. In
areas assessed, only a few families ranked water or sanitation
within their current set of priority needs.
-- Water --
3. In pocket areas, the earthquake destroyed or caused extensive
damage to houses, roads, schools, and health facilities. In areas
where houses were damaged or destroyed, water points -- usually in
the form of a well on the family plot -- may also have sustained
damaged. Some wells have collapsed, but most of the damage to wells
occurred when debris fell into the wells during or after the
4. In villages assessed by the USAID/DART, families reported using
pre-earthquake water points if such water points are still
operational. Where pre-earthquake water points are not operational,
families rely on water from neighbors' wells or nearby springs. In
isolated circumstances, people are retrieving water from rivers.
5. When disasters force people to rely on non-traditional water
sources, public health concerns arise because of increased potential
for water-borne disease. At present in Indonesia, the humanitarian
community feels that the use of potentially contaminated water
sources is not of critical concern, so long as people continue the
practice of boiling water. Indonesians adhere to a long-standing
tradition of boiling water prior to consumption. This practice
reduces the likelihood of consuming contaminated water, even if the
source is potentially contaminated. All families interviewed by the
USAID/DART field officer reported continuing to boil water, using
either firewood or fuel purchased at the local market, and stated
that they will carry on with this practice.
6. Market assessments conducted by the USAID/DART indicate that the
price of fuel for cooking has not increased since the earthquake.
If the price of fuel for cooking were to rise to a point at which
families could no longer afford it, and thus would no longer have
access to fuel, serious public health consequences could ensue. At
this point in time, however, the price of fuel remains steady, and
families continue to purchase fuel for boiling water.
JAKARTA 00001743 002 OF 002
7. Water trucking services continue in Padang city, where the water
network is not yet fully operational following the earthquake.
Non-governmental organizations are concerned that water trucking
services will cease before the water distribution network is fully
restored, thereby leaving families without access to potable water.
The USAID/DART will continue to track this issue.
-- Sanitation and Hygiene --
8. Household inspections conducted by the USAID/DART field officer
indicated that many families use open-mouthed containers to store
boiled water. Family members dip hands and buckets into the water,
giving rise to the potential for re-contamination of boiled water
prior to consumption. The distribution of closed-mouth jerry cans
combined with hygiene promotion activities can help address this
issue. USAID/OFDA-funded partners are currently implementing such
9. The earthquake damaged or destroyed not only the physical
structure of houses but also any indoor sanitation structures.
Where that has happened, families report using neighbors' latrines.
There has been moderate damage reported to outdoor latrines.
Families report damage to latrine superstructures and fractures to
ceramic bowls and slabs.
10. In isolated circumstances, families practice open defecation.
The USAID/DART field officer asked families who reported practicing
open defecation to show him where they defecated and where they
retrieved their water. In all cases, the area of defecation was
neither in close proximity to the source of water nor in an area
that would create conditions leading to significant public health
11. Hand washing is not a common practice in the assessed areas.
However, ablutions prior to prayer help create hygiene behaviors
which reduce health risks that typically accompany a lack of hand
washing. The importance of hand washing should be included in
ongoing hygiene promotion activities throughout the
12. In areas assessed, individuals continue to be able to access
water and sanitation infrastructure. Cultural practices including
ablutions and boiling water help protect populations from
water-borne diseases. Few of the families interviewed ranked water
and sanitation with their current set of priority needs. For these
and other reasons, the USAID/DART concludes that WASH programs are
not among the pressing needs of most earthquake-affected families.
Going forward, USAID/OFDA partners will reinforce good WASH
behaviors, monitor WASH conditions, and respond as needed.