Lombok earthquake update: desperate need for safe latrines and clean water

Mathilde Hutagaol | August 27, 2018

“I am glad that all my children are safe – now I have to adjust to living in this camp. I am happy that many people have helped us: I am able to cook and drink clean mineral water now.” – One of displaced people who live in Tanjung’s Camp, North Lombok.

It has been four days since I arrived in North Lombok to help coordinate response to the earthquake. Because of my role as Disaster Risk Management Specialist, the CWS team loaned me to Humanitarian Forum Indonesia to aid in the response. I’m here to help meet the needs of the people of Lombok while they continue the disaster recovery process.

I have attended a series of coordination meetings since I arrived. On my third day, I joined the Joint Needs Assessment team, led by Catholic Relief Services – Emergency Capacity Building, to review the results of their assessment. It’s important to make evidence-based decisions about the response, so this assessment is valuable steering tool. We identified the priority issues that the earthquake survivors were facing and strategized about how to respond effectively.

We wrapped up that meeting with a presentation ready for the National Disaster Management Agency the next day, which is BNPB in Indonesian. The BNPB was delighted with this joint effort and was glad to have the assessment results that it had been waiting for.

The main priorities that the assessment revealed was for sanitary latrines and clean water for people living in camps.

I wasn’t surprised to see sanitary latrines at the top of the list. When I visited the camp in Tanjung, North Lombok on my first day, I saw many portable toilets around the camp that had been provided by the public works office. Unfortunately, these toilets hadn’t come with holding tanks and had limited water supply. Eventually, they had been abandoned. The ones that had been used were left in disgusting condition.

Presenting the Joint Needs Assessment results and analysis to the National Disaster Management Agency.

In some of the camps I visited in the center of North Lombok, I couldn’t even find emergency latrines. This left people with no choice but to use the bushes around the camp as bathrooms.

Our ACT Alliance partners, YEU and PELKESI, had already heard of people suffering from diarrhea and skin diseases. Other organizations reported that women and girls were often waiting until dark to use nearby toilets, putting them at risk of physical danger.

At a cluster meeting about water, sanitation and hygiene, many local organizations reported that a lack of clean water continues to be a challenge because of a limited supply of water trucks. Even the government didn’t have enough trucks. Meanwhile, some affected areas – particularly those in the mountainous areas – aren’t accessible to large vehicles like water trucks. “Access to mountainous areas was the hardest. We need to find a good strategy to ask the people in those areas to come down and collect the water,” said one colleague in the meeting.

Every emergency response is unique, but one thing is always true: basic water, sanitation and hygiene facilities are critical to maintaining the dignity of people affected by a disaster, particularly for women and girls.

This blog was written by CWS Disaster Risk Management Specialist Mathilde Hutagaol on August 16, while she was in Lombok.