Mercy Corps leads relief and recovery work in the Asia-Pacific

October 5, 2009

Portland, OR – Mercy Corps staff have been working quickly and diligently to respond to the devastation wrought by two enormous disasters in the Asia-Pacific region: the earthquakes on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and the tsunami in the Samoan Islands.

Two successive earthquakes struck western Indonesia last Wednesday, collapsing markets, schools and other buildings, and causing mudslides that buried entire villages in some parts of Sumatra. Indonesian officials report more than 600 confirmed deaths, and that number is likely to rise with thousands of people still feared to be trapped under rubble.

Mercy Corps is leading the charge in coordinating relief efforts among a consortium of seven humanitarian agencies on the ground. The US Agency for International Development awarded Mercy Corps a $300,000 grant to continue this work.

Within 24 hours of the disaster, Mercy Corps established contact with their staff in Padang, a major city near the epicenter of the quake, and immediately deployed global emergency specialists to the site.

“The team here is amazing — truly dedicated,” said Malka Older, Mercy Corps’ director of programs in Indonesia, who has been directing the effort in Padang. “They are working hard in the heat, and look slightly worse for the wear but are full of spirit and eager to keep going on the response.”

In the last few days, Older and her team have been working nearly round the clock under tough conditions, coping with sporadic electricity, fuel shortages and damaged roads. Members of the team have been fanning out to the areas that were hardest hit by the earthquakes to assess the most pressing needs of devastated communities.

Tomorrow, Mercy Corps will begin distributing construction and cleaning kits, hygiene items and blankets to displaced families. In addition, the agency is working with the local water company to ensure that they can distribute clean water by tanker truck to residents of Padang.

Mercy Corps aid workers have also been traveling to assess the needs in communities in remote districts. In some places, they are finding heartening stories of lives that were spared because of evacuation and disaster risk reduction training conducted by Mercy Corps prior to the earthquakes.

“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 very familiar with the area and well-suited to lead this effort,” noted Sean Granville-Ross, Country Director for Mercy Corps in Indonesia.

In the Samoan Islands, a tsunami generated by a 8.0 earthquake last Tuesday killed at least 150 people and wiped out dozens of coastal villages.

In Samoa, Mercy Corps quickly formed a partnership with South Pacific Business Development, a local microfinance organization with considerable experience assisting families in some of the most impoverished communities of Somoa. In addition, the agency has deployed an emergency program manager to develop a strategy to help Samoan communities recover from this natural disaster.


Mercy Corps
Asia Pacific Disaster
Dept NR
PO Box 2669
Portland, OR 97208