Solidarity For Lombok
IT is imperative the central and regional administrations immediately straighten out their coordination in meting out assistance to the victims of the disaster in the island of Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara.
IT is imperative the central and regional administrations immediately straighten out their coordination in meting out assistance to the victims of the disaster in the island of Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara. It has been one month since the first earthquake wrought damage on the island with a populace of 3.1 million, and aid has still not been divvied out proportionately. We still hear reports about evacuees left stranded with no adequate logistics available.
This disarray in the field would not have occurred if from the word go a clear chain of command had been set up for distribution of aid during the emergency phase. However big the volume of aid from the public sent to Lombok, they are of no avail if the agencies on the ground do not work in conjunction with each other. Logistics apparently are stock-piling in several spots, yet in many other spots, hundreds of victims are crying out for not being paid attention to.
Compilation of data on the number of victims and damaged spots are also uncoordinated, causing victim-handling to look sporadic at best. The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) appears to have been ill-prepared to handle the massive chain of hundreds of aftershocks that have continued to devastate Lombok since last July. The large numbers of humanitarian agencies that are not yet registered by the BNPB, and their confusion about BNPB’s standard operating procedure in an emergency only adds insult to injury.
Assisting 400,000 evacuees and repairing 73,000 houses felled by the disaster cannot be conducted without proper coordination. Tending to more than 20,000 wounded and divvying out supplies to the families of more than 550 who are killed needs synergy and collaboration between the humanitarian organizations that have come out to Lombok in droves.
The polemic about the status of the Lombok earthquakewhether it is a ‘national disaster’ or nothas also added to the muddle on the ground. To some parties, the shift in status is considered urgent for a better coordinated command center to be established. Raising the disaster status also deemed important to ensure swift mobilization of resources. These are the two most complained about issues, voiced by many volunteers working in Lombok.
Meanwhile, the central government seems to be placing too much calculation on the impact of a national disaster status towards tourism, and our hosting of such international events as the Asian Games and the International Monetary Fund-World Bank meeting to be held in Bali this October. In many occasions, several government officials also raised concern that foreign aid organization can come and operate freely in the disaster hit area if Lombok quake is declared as national disaster. This type of statement is highly regrettable and shows lack of empathy toward the victims.
The root cause of this debate is the vague clause regarding this matter in the law on disaster management. The criteria for a disaster to be declared ‘national’ or ‘local’ is not very clear. To avoid repeating this back and forth in the future, the House of Representatives (DPR) should amend the law and include a more precise definition and criteria for disaster status.
Nevertheless, now it is time for all parties to set aside differences of opinion and focus on the task at handaid to the victims. Rather than debating about whether the government is giving optimum attention to the victims in Lombok, the public would do better to conduct a massive social solidarity drive. Community initiatives to collect and send aid from throughout Indonesia should continue.
At the same time, the BNPB should work harder to respond to such nation-wide show of social solidarity. Their dissemination should be better structured and systematic for the public to know exactly what is needed by the victims and how to channel that aid so they receive it. Without it, all the help will be in vain and only add problems to already over stretched first responders’ network.
If necessary, the central and local administrations could extend the emergency phase. Even though three weeks have passed since the emergency status was announced by the West Nusa Tenggara provincial government, logistic supplies to people in evacuation have not been stable. The government need not focus yet on rebuilding damaged housing if basic supplies for the human victims are not yet guaranteed. The rehabilitation and reconstruction phase can begin only once the emergency state has been thoroughly seen to.
The most important lesson to come out of the whole sorry mess and the jumbled supervision of quake victims is our very low capacity for handling disaster. High awareness that Indonesia is disaster-prone has not been coupled with preparedness to anticipate what this means. This is the huge homework we have to tackle in earnest before the next disaster comes along.