The Yogya earthquake relief efforts described here are a combined labor of love between Bali Cares, Ibu Peduli, IDEP, Bumi Sehat, and John Fawcette Foundation - Yayasan Kemanusian Indonesia, all local Indonesian not for profit organizations based in Bali. Because we are right here in country, we are able to respond quickly to the needs of our neighbor islands when disaster strikes. For Bumi Sehat our work in Yogya is a short-term emergency effort, we continue to keep our family health and birth center in Bali and the tsunami relief clinic in Aceh in operation. The Bumi Youth Center in Ubud is also about to take wing.
I arrived in Saturday morning, one week after the disaster that took nearly 6000 lives in and around the city of Yogyakarta on the island of Java. Sam Shultz and Lee Downing had asked me to join their team. We flew while a huge truck loaded with food, tents, tarps, tools, basic survival essentials and medical supplies, had left the night before and would meet us. Sam and Lee would join Baut who had been on the ground since the disaster, and determine just where to deliver these relief goods and where to distribute relief as the weeks of recovery continue. I was to do medical relief, and determine where pockets of people not yet been seen by medics were waiting for help.
We were greeted by Ibu Esti of Bali Cares and taken straight away to the joint relief "gudang" (storage and distribution center), where we meet with Ade Jane. She had organized a medical team to go out to a village that had not yet seen any medical relief. I found myself on the back of a motorbike speeding to rendezvous the Indonesian Off Road Federation, Djuna Ivereigh, a friend who had been photographing Mt Merapi, put us together. They took me by four-wheel drive to several remote mountain villages heavily damaged by the earthquake. A young nurse named Elok accompanied me to do medical relief and evaluate the general health condition of the displaced people on Gunung Kidul.
We found people were often camped in their front yards because their houses had been reduced to rubble. Even survivors who still had houses standing were afraid to stay in them, as the next aftershock may be enough shaking to bring the building down. In smaller villages large tents had been erected and everyone was camped together under one canvas roof. Makeshift outdoor kitchens were busy with food preparation. The men had dug up peanuts and the women were boiling them to share. The children seemed happy to be together. Every school I passed was terribly damaged, it was clearly not safe to resume classes within those cracked and crumbling walls, where one could look up and see the sky through giant holes in the tile roofs.
I was delighted to find that even in very remote villages, the dead had been buried. The severely injured had been transported by the off-road team to hospitals within the city. Elok and I redressed wounds and attended to medical complaints common all over Indonesia. We found most of the mountain population to be anemic. Many suffered from dysentery. I saw many pregnant women, anxious to know if their babies would be affected by the trauma. What was I to tell them? One woman, seven months pregnant was concerned because her baby had turned breech following the earthquake. While she spoke I gently massaged her belly and did a version, her baby turned head down.
At dusk we returned to the Off Road Federation base camp, where children and adults were enjoying a soccer game. Food, also provided by the Off Road team and distributed to anyone who was hungry, was steaming in giant pots and letting off an incredible aroma. Women huddled on the edges of the field, breastfeeding babies and looking at the sky, hoping it would not rain. I was told that the first four days following the earthquake, it rained torrentially and that just the previous night a short but strong earthquake had sent people into a panic.
By nightfall I was back on the road to Buntul, the worst hit area of the city of Yogya. There I would meet Rosita, our Aceh clinic manager. Rosita's family in Buntul had suffered heavy damage to their house, and were camped in their front yard, in a makeshift tarp shelter. There also I would meet Bumi Sehat's nurse, Liman. Liman had been working in Aceh for five weeks and was looking forward to returning to the Bali clinic, when the earthquake struck. Instead of having a break, this young man decided to go directly to Yogya to jump in and provide medical relief.
There at Rosita's family home I was to have my first meal of the day, a meal made of tapioca root, some vegetables and fish. We all felt lucky to have this, knowing that all over the city and beyond, people would go hungry another day. Rosita's new husband, Matias had fixed the roof. I felt comfortable sleeping inside with Rosita. The house next door was completely reduced to a pile of bricks. The young family living there had risen early the day of the earthquake, which struck at around 5 in the morning. Because they were not inside the house, all were spared. All over the province of Buntul, I saw every second or third house destroyed. Houses still standing would surely not survive another major tremor.
The next day we were directed to go to a village where we found many infected wounds from the earthquake. Fortunately John Fawcette had given us Flufloxicillan, an antibiotic that has saved many a limb from being amputated after going septic. I distributed the few baby clothes and blankets that I was carrying.
I found the people of Yogya and the surrounding areas were not waiting for help from outside (though they desperately need it). They were busy helping them selves. I became convinced that in Bali we must ready our villages for natural disasters. It is apparent that relief food and medical outreach comes to disaster zones only after five or more days, and often much longer. This is a long time to go without food or clean drinking water.
The city of Yogyakarta is functioning. It is a beautiful ballet of broken buildings and people on bicycles going about their business of living. The traffic is awful. I saw lots of cooperation. Yes, the international relief organizations are slowly arriving. I was saddened when our nurse Liman and all the young male relief workers in the tent were he slept were robbed. It is a strange and ugly and yet beautiful movie set, where people in mourning spread their small carpets on the rubble to kneel and pray. Yogya is a cross between a tragic disaster and a lawn party. All the while the people have one eye lifted to Mount Merapi, waiting for him to erupt. Yesterday the people's worst fear came to pass; at a little after 9 a.m. Merapi erupted. The world is still wondering who survived, while volcanologists predict it will erupt again, much larger next time. The earthquake had caused a small eruption about two weeks earlier, hopes were that the small eruption would relieve enough pressure to prevent a big eruption, but that was not to be. At this point in Indonesia, as the earthquakes increase in magnitude and frequency, we don't know what to expect from nature.