Coordination and community trust building: the role of FBOs in the response to the Sunda Strait Tsunami

Written by: Arnice Ajawaila

Arnice is an Emergency Response Coordinator of YEU— one of YAKKUM’s (Christian Foundation for Public Health) units which was established in 2001. Its core mandate is the delivery of inclusive emergency response. YEU works to articulate initiatives to build community resilience through community-led disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. After the Sunda Strait Tsunami, YEU deployed a team to respond to the emergency in South Lampung district  from 23rdDecember 2018 until 28thFebruary 2019.

Amid the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, we were surprised by the tsunami that hit Banten and Lampung, Indonesia, on the night of 22ndDecember 2018 without any early warning. Instantly, the joyous feeling of Christmas turned into sorrow. Hundreds of people lost their lives, and thousands more got injured. The National Agency for Disaster Management has reported 437 deaths, 9,061 injuries, and 10 people missing. A total of 16,198 people were displaced, and as many as 1,071 houses were severely and moderately damaged.

That first night, the phone didn’t stop ringing. I am the Emergency Response Coordinator at ACT member YEU, and people kept asking me for information on the situation and YEU’s response plans. I had difficulties to immediately connect with YEU’s local network that was in the area hit by the tsunami. Fortunately, quick responses from the government, colleagues and friends, as well as people from disaster online forums across the country provided information.

The next day, as information trickled in, conditions in the field were becoming clearer. Based on the explanation from the Head of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), the tsunami was generated by a 64-hectare section of the Anak Krakatau Volcano, (which had seen small regular eruptions since June) collapsed underwater, causing a landslide that triggered a tsunami. Districts such as Pandeglang and Serang in Banten and South Lampung were the worst-hit areas. However, the South Lampung District got less attention compared to Banten, which is geographically located in the Java island where access to assistance is easier.

The silent tsunami struck the coastline of the South Lampung District and damaged key infrastructure- the roads between villages were disconnected, and public facilities were heavily damaged. The local community relocated away from the coastline towards the hills in attempt to save their lives, afraid that there could be another tsunami.  Access to other survivors who decided to stay in emergency tents was difficult for those who attempted to provide humanitarian aid.

Based on these circumstances, YEU prioritized the response in the South Lampung District. After a few days we were finally able to connect with the GKSBS (Christian Church in Southern Sumatra) and Mardi Waluyo Hospital—one of YAKKUM’s hospitals located in Metro Lampung. The Mardi Waluyo Hospital ran a rural clinic in Rajabasa—one of the villages that was most affected by the tsunami. The clinic was slightly damaged but could still provide assistance to the affected people.

YEU helped the Mardi Waluyo Hospital to establish mobile health service and worked with a village midwife to create an Emergency Health Post in Rajabasa which remained open 24 hours a day. The GKSBS team helped to conduct assessments in the emergency shelters and reported back to YEU.

YAKKUM’s networks of faith-based organizations kept exchanging information on the latest news and immediate needs they found at field level.

When the period of emergency response ended, YEU supported the communities by providing shelter management, medical and psychosocial support and non-food items distribution. The local church played a role in coordinating faith communities across Indonesia willing to help those affected.

Collaboration between faith-based organizations is crucial during emergencies. As was evident in the case of the Sunda Strait response, FBOs are trusted by the communities and can access the most vulnerable. Moreover, the principle of accountability and the complaint mechanism explained by YEU to the assisted community played an important role in the entire process, building trust between first responders and the communities.