A village prepares — and survives

Indonesia, October 5, 2009

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Malka Older/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Zulkifli (right, in cap) stands with members of the Mercy Corps emergency response team. They are, from left: Endang Trisna, Program Manager; Wahyudi, Monitoring Officer; Aldo, local partner. Photo: Malka Older/Mercy Corps
  <span class="field-credit">
    REUTERS/Enny Nuraheni, courtesy of www.alertnet.org  </span>
    A family sleeps in the open air after fleeing from their earthquake-damaged home. Photo: REUTERS/Enny Nuraheni, courtesy of www.alertnet.org

When a massive earthquake hit the West Sumatran village of Mangopo last week, Zulkifli didn’t panic. Instead, he remembered the disaster preparedness training that he'd received from Mercy Corps and its local partner — and that made all the difference when the quake struck.

When the quake hit, there wasn't time to think — just act. After checking on their families, Zulkifli and others who'd received the training gathered the whole village of Mangopo and led them to an evacuation site that was far inland from the ocean in case of a tsunami. Once the danger had passed, he and the villagers returned to their community. Zulkifli and his fellow disaster preparedness team members immediately started to assess damages and organize the community for clean-up.

“Our training was perfect,” Zulfikli said proudly. “The community responded quickly, and no one was killed here.”

The fact that there were no casualties is testament to the heroism of villagers like Zulkifli — as well as the success of the Mercy Corps-led Disaster Risk Reduction Initiative, funded by Boeing and established more than three years ago to help villages that had suffered the Indian Ocean tsunami.

Families are grateful for their survival, but well aware of the challenges ahead of them. Zulkifli estimated that 95 percent of houses in the village were affected, and he pointed out cracks in roads and bridges. Fisherman are afraid to fish, farmers are too busy cleaning their houses to farm and transport from Padang — the nearest city, one and a half hours away from here — has come to a standstill, leaving shops without supplies.

“We are worried about food,” Zulkifli said. “The shops are even running out of instant noodles.”

And there is also a problem with shelter: dozens of houses lay in rubble. Even the houses that are still standing are too damaged and dangerous to go into, so villagers are sleeping outside in the rain. Many villagers are suffering from mosquito-borne diseases from the onset of hot, wet weather here, and wonder where they will stay in the coming weeks.

Mercy Corps is preparing to deliver construction and cleaning tools, hygiene kits and mosquito nets to Mangopo and other villages affected by the West Sumatra earthquake. Zulkifli and the other members of the disaster preparedness team will organize and assist in the distribution — which makes them even more ready to support their village when disaster strikes.