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Beginning the response

Indonesia, October 1, 2009

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  <span class="field-credit">
    REUTERS/Dadang Tri, courtesy of www.alertnet.org  </span>
    A wide range of buildings in Padang, including hundreds of houses, were toppled or severely damaged by Wednesday's earthquake. Photo: REUTERS/Dadang Tri, courtesy of www.alertnet.org

Today is an intense day for the Mercy Corps team in Padang, with more team members arriving and emergency assessments of affected areas underway.

We currently have seven Mercy Corps staff on the ground in Padang — six from the local office and Malka Older, our Program Director who's based in Jakarta — as well as 15 staff from Kogami, our local partner organization. Over the next couple of days, they'll be joined by a monitoring and evaluation specialist from our office in Banda Aceh, a logistician, finance and procurement staff, an engineer, a program officer and then a water and sanitation expert from our Global Emergency Operations team. Even though much of our team in Padang was assembled within 24 hours of the first earthquake, it always takes a little longer for the full team to get into position — especially when the local airport is operating at a lesser capacity and roads are blocked by debris.

This team will assess areas that were hit particularly hard by the earthquake, using specific tools and methods that Mercy Corps has used in many previous disasters, including here in Indonesia. These assessments will be used by a consortium of eight humanitarian organizations, which Mercy Corps is leading, to determine the most pressing needs of devastated communities and displaced families.

Since we've already had a presence in Padang for the last five years, conducting programs that range from children's nutrition to emergency preparedness, we're already very familiar with the area and well-suited to lead this effort.

We're planning to distribute shelter supplies, hygiene items and clean water to displaced families who are surviving as best they can in this suddenly-changed environment. Soon after that, we'll continue working with those families through programs that pay laborers a living wage to restore and rebuild their communities. The income they earn will help them support their households, as well as get money flowing to local businesses that are also struggling to survive.

An emergency response might look different from what a lot of people would expect; it's not about showing up and dropping off boxes of supplies. It takes a lot more to ensure that immediate needs are met in a thorough and timely manner, and also that long-term rebuilding is begun with the full support of the communities we serve.

There's too much at stake here to do any less than a complete response in Padang. Our team plans to do it right.