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Monday, October 12, 2009

From the Disaster Zone

Razaul Karim is an aid worker with Islamic Relief who travelled to Sumatra to assist with relief efforts. In this diary entry, he writes about his first impressions of the disaster zone and the massive challenges faced by both the local community and aid workers in the region.

Even before we joined the Islamic Relief emergency response team in Padang, the affects of the earthquake could be felt all around us. As we stepped off the plane in Jakarta on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, I could sense that all around me local people were sharing in the grief of those who had lost loved ones in the disaster.

On the way to Padang the news came through that the search and rescue mission was coming to an end. The focus now for the humanitarian community would be on providing aid and recovering the bodies from underneath the rubble. This news had an impact on everyone, whether they were from Padang or not and made me recall one of the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, that the Muslim community is like a body, and if one part of it is injured then the whole body suffers.

Driving into Padang the scale of devastation was overwhelming. Schools had been destroyed, roofs had fallen in and office blocks had collapsed like a pack of cards. There were mounds of rubble and sheets of metal where peoples’ homes once stood, with just tarpaulin sheets or tents in their place.

At the side of the roads, children stood holding out cardboard boxes asking for food and money, while elsewhere people stood around, still unable to take in the enormity of what had happened.

In some areas the devastation has been sporadic. While five houses may have remained standing, their neighbor’s may have come crashing down. However, in the more remote villages the scenes are apocalyptic, with many villages completely wiped out.

In one of the villages we visited, I met a woman who was pregnant and whose house had been completely destroyed. She was desperately searching for bits of cardboard and plastic sheeting with which to make shelter for her and her five young children. Thankfully, we were able to give her a tent that will offer her and her family some protection from the relentless rain.

All the people I spoke to told me how terrified they were and how they desperately needed help. As always it is the children who are the most vulnerable in these situations as their whole world is torn from beneath their feet. Young children spoke of being brave but how they were scared of living in a tent. They are clinging to what is normal and familiar and want to go back to school and play with their friends.

Donate today to help victims of the earthquake!

Islamic Relief's response
To help children overcome the trauma of the disaster and its aftermath, Islamic Relief has decided to set up a trauma center, where children will be cared for and be able to play and learn in a safe environment.

Islamic Relief has worked in the affected region before, having previously installed water sources in villages in Padang Pariaman District. Although the damage to these water systems has been minimal there is currently no electricity to run them. In the next day or so Islamic Relief aid workers will set up generators to ensure that people continue to have access to clean water, which is essential if the spread of disease is to be controlled.

In the last village we visited to today, I came to learn about an elderly man who had been surviving on nothing more than water for the past four days. He had been trapped but no aid had been able to reach that far. Many villages have been cut off by landslides and in these areas the scale of destruction is presenting a massive challenge for aid workers. While we ensured that he was provided with emergency food, I wondered how many other people like him were still stranded, waiting desperately for someone to come and help them.

Click here to read more about Islamic Relief's efforts for victims of the recent earthquakes and disasters in the Pacific Rim region.

1 comment:

  1. I like this organization. Because they are work for the welfare of the peoples , Such as in 2005 earth quick in Pakistan the Islamic Relief played a very vital role in earth quick.