Floods were the most frequent natural disaster of 2020. In 2021, Indonesia is already impacted by heavy rain and rising waters.
15 Jul, 2021
For many people in Australia, the sound of rain falling on a tin roof is calming and relaxing. For 11-year-old Eva in Indonesia, it has an entirely different meaning.
In February 2021, rain poured down on Java Island nearly every day. The monsoon season occurs in Indonesia every year from November to March, but this year, the La Niña weather pattern will extend the rain.
As the rain pours down, Eva helps her mum move their possessions off the floor and as high as possible. As they do, she worries about how bad the flooding will be and if her home will survive.
In Java, districts and cities have already been struck by floods throughout February. One of the most impacted cities is Pekalongan, a coastal city on the northern end of the island. For almost two weeks, over 80 per cent of the city was covered in water 30-70 centimetres deep. The water level changed every day, making it hard for residents to move around. Because of its location, the city floods every year, but some locals believe this year's flood will be worse than most due to La Niña and rising sea levels.
Due to the floods, it’s difficult to use vehicles, so staff members are wading through water to find out how each child and family is doing.
In Pekalongan, a local Compassion child development centre is checking on each registered child. Due to the floods, it’s difficult to use vehicles, so staff members are wading through water to find out how each child and family is doing. As the flood waters rise, this becomes even more difficult. "When we did our initial visit to collect data several days ago, the flood water was still very shallow, but it's getting deeper now," says Heris, centre coordinator.
As they waded through the community, they found families whose homes were filled with water. Some families were able to evacuate to government shelters and their relatives' homes—some could not. Forty-six families had homes flooded and their belongings damaged.
"Our first priority is to give the families meals to eat and provide them a necessary emergency health kit," says Heris. This disaster package consists of food, diarrhoea medicine, blankets, herbal syrup, aspirin and skin ointment. The food is ready-made, so families don’t need to worry about cooking. It took Heris and his team three days to distribute the kits and food to all 46 families.
Eva lives in one of the most severely impacted areas of the city. While her parents stayed at their house to prevent further damage, she evacuated to a relative's house nearby so she could continue her online schooling, even though her relative’s house is also impacted by the flooding.
"I miss my friends. They are still there, not evacuating," says Eva. In the afternoon, Eva would usually go out with her friends in her neighbourhood. "I spent my time just staying at the house. It has been lonely."
Every couple of days, her mother would visit and check her. It’s normally not difficult to travel the short distance between the two homes, but the flood waters make the travel tricky. "I'm always looking forward to the time my mother visits."
Heris and his team believe food distribution and emergency health kits are essential as an early response measure. Families’ access to groceries and supplies is made even more difficult because of the flooding. The emergency health kit ensures children are safe and their basic needs are met even in during the disaster. As the flooding subsides, the team will focus on long-term recovery for families.
"I miss the days when I could spend my time in the Compassion centre with friends."
As Eva waits for the flood waters to recede so she can return home, she also waits for the day she can finally be with her friends again at the centre. "I miss the days when I could spend my time in the Compassion centre with friends," she says. Between the flooding and the pandemic, children and families in Pekalongan have to endure more days with activity restriction.
"I am still grateful to be able to receive food support and to be with my family," says Eva. Without knowing when the waters will recede and when she can go home, she’s still thankful that she can count on Heris and her child development centre whenever she needs help.
You can play a part in helping children impacted by natural disasters, like Eva, by giving to the Restore Hope Appeal.
Words by Hutama Limarta and Andrew Barker.
UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (2021). 2020: The Non-COVID Year in Disasters. https://reliefweb.int/report/world/2020-non-covid-year-disasters-global-trends-and-perspectives
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