When Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in November, Dewi Hanifah was quickly deployed to the devastated region. A member of our Indonesia team, she's a seasoned responder who knows firsthand what survivors need most in the immediate days following a disaster. Dewi was on the ground helping families after both the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and 2010 Sumatra earthquake and tsunami.
That expertise, paired with her background in helping communities better prepare for future disasters, make Dewi a vital member of Mercy Corps' team.
My role at Mercy Corps: I have two positions – my “normal role” is coordinator for a regional disaster preparedness program, where we work to help communities identify and reduce risks from natural disasters before they occur. I'm also the Indonesia Response Team Coordinator, which means I lead Mercy Corps’ responses to emergencies in the region.
On a typical day I work with colleagues in the region to gather successes, lessons learned and challenges. Then, when a disaster happens there is a complete shift in my work; it changes 180 degrees! Because I commit to being available anytime to respond to emergencies, I have to be ready to travel within 24 hours. In addition I have to quickly contact other team members and make sure they are ready to respond. We have 30 team members on the Indonesia Response Team, all ready to mobilize in 24 hours of an emergency. When an emergency happens it is crazy busy. We prepare the team for deployment, check the supply of relief goods in our warehouse, and take care of other tasks that need to happen within 24 hours before we depart to the affected areas.
The aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan: This was my first time being deployed outside Indonesia, and I was eager to get there. I arrived in Cebu where we met to coordinate our response and map out our distribution plan. Then I went to Tacloban, one of the provinces hardest hit. it took 45 minutes by plane to get to this area from Cebu. I was in shock when I arrived in this area, I couldn’t believe what I saw. I called Mark Ferdig, Mercy Corps' team leader, and told him that it looked just like the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. I became familiar with the terrible smell of dead bodies, from the airport until the city. It reminded me of what it was like after the Sumatra earthquake and tsunami of 2010.
A memorable moment: When we distributed goods to families who had received little help because they were on such a remote island, I was worried because I thought the situation might turn chaotic. When we got to the island there were so many people lined up to receive goods. I'll never forget the moment when I saw the faces of people when they received the kits, they were so happy and thankful. Their faces made my exhaustion worth it. I felt something that I cannot explain, I was just very happy.
My hopes for the future: I hope that my work will be impactful and sustainable for communities who live in disaster-prone areas, to help people be more prepared and improve how communities deal with and recover from future disasters. I've learned that it is important to work together with the community on these solutions and always consider and incorporate local wisdom.