“I want to help other women to be stronger” - Indonesia

Above: A woman at Loli Pesua village, Donggala District, waiting for her husband to bring home care packages to their temporary settlement. Photo credit: CARE.

Above: A woman at Loli Pesua village, Donggala District, waiting for her husband to bring home care packages to their temporary settlement. Photo credit: CARE.

On the evening of September 28, a 7.4 magnitude earthquake rocked the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. A powerful tsunami followed, washing away everything in its path. 

Around 1,500 people died that night and more than 330,000 survivors lost their homes and many made their way to the Grand Mosque in Palu to seek shelter. 

The usually neat Grand Mosque yard now resembled a massive camping ground. Hundreds of improvised campsites were set up, providing a temporary home to those that had lose theirs. There were only 10 toilets for the whole compound; one toilet for approximately every 160 men, women and children. 

Fira, a volunteer at a women-friendly space managed by the Indonesian Ministry of Social Affairs, with whom CARE coordinated all response activities explained the precarious nature of the camp for women and girls.

Above: A boy in Loli Saluran village, Donggala, Central Sulawesi, helps his parents to bring home shelter and hygiene kits which consist of tarpaulins, a mattress, sanitary napkins for women and girls, and soap (enough for one household’s needs for one month).

Above: A boy in Loli Saluran village, Donggala, Central Sulawesi, helps his parents to bring home shelter and hygiene kits which consist of tarpaulins, a mattress, sanitary napkins for women and girls, and soap (enough for one household’s needs for one month).

“It is an unhealthy and unsafe environment, especially for women and girls. There are not enough female-friendly bathrooms. The toilets are dirty and far from their tents,” she said.

Fira was worried about women having to live in the makeshift shelters, with hundreds of strangers and little protection.  

“You cannot know how depressing it is, unless you are a woman,” she added.

CARE’s Sulawesi response focused on addressing urgent emergency WASH and shelter needs in Donggala and Sigi districts. Working with their Indonesia partner, PKPU, CARE reached 9,512 people with funds received via the Australian Humanitarian Partnership.

Above: A woman in Loli Pesua village, Donggala, with a shelter and hygiene kit.

Above: A woman in Loli Pesua village, Donggala, with a shelter and hygiene kit.

Women and children are at greater risk in the aftermath of natural disasters. Inadequate and overcrowded temporary camps can be especially harmful for their health and the risk of violence and harassment can increase. Access to clean water is another issue. Women and girls tend to need more water than men. They need it for cooking, washing clothes, bathing their children, and for their own personal hygiene, especially during menstruation. Stress and trauma within the family can also potentially lead to increased risks of gender-based violence. 

Women’s responsibilities in their families are magnified and expanded post-disasters, with significantly less support and resources. Despite this, the needs of women and girls are often overlooked during the relief and recovery process. 

For this reason, CARE focused its response to the earthquake and tsunami on women. To meet the basic needs of the most vulnerable households, CARE provided emergency packages including tarpaulins, blankets, mattresses, kitchen supplies and water and sanitation kits that included the locally-preferred sanitary materials for women and adolescent girls in order to help them maintain their dignity. To enhance the long-term impact of the assistance, CARE and PKPU conducted hygiene promotion awareness activities, better equipping community members to protect themselves from immediate health risks and when the next disaster strikes. CARE and PKPU also provided access to clean drinking water and water for laundry and other household activities, further reducing immediate health risks.