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2009 flooding, Jakarta

SOS Emergency Relief after flooding

Situ Gintung was an man-made lake near the town of Cirendeu, a suburb of Jakarta in Indonesia. It was formed by a dam up to 16 metres (52 ft) high which was built when Indonesia was a Dutch colony in the 1930s. The dam burst on 27 March 2009, draining the lake, with resulting floods killing at least 100 people (with a similar number still missing) and causing considerable destruction. As well as conventional emergency relief, a main role for SOS Children after this disaster was to deal with the traumatised children.

It was 2 a.m. on 27 March this year when the Situ Gintung dam burst on the south-western outskirts of Indonesia's capital, Jakarta. A four-metre high wave of water crashed through the densely-populated poor district of Cireundeu. Around 400 houses were completely destroyed and thousands damaged. 

SOS Children reached the scene quickly with an initial emergency relief team of twelve people. The SOS Children's Villages in Jakarta was used as the base camp and coordination point for the emergency relief efforts. Rice was distributed to families affected in the emergency relief camps, along with clothes, medicines and other urgently needed goods. 

Children who had lost their homes and family members, who were put into emergency camps, needed some sort of support to allow them to have some kind of childhood even after a disaster. The alternative is to spend a couple of months post disaster sitting waiting and brooding too much about what has happened. Support for those traumatised children was provided by the mobile SOS Children's library, a successful project in Indonesia that has made books and teaching materials available free of charge to many children at schools and in poorer communities. The 67 children, in temporary shelters in Pancol (with their families) after the dam had burst, received regular visits from the library and were able to continue some education whilst in the camps. This proved so popular, we are told the children could hardly wait for the library on wheels to come to them twice a week. As Alia explained "It makes a really nice change for our children. They have learned new things and always look forward to the SOS library." Another woman who lost her husband in the disaster added, "We lost everything when the dam burst. I was pleased that the children at least have the chance to learn something."Emergency School in Jakarta

The SOS library, which is housed in a mini-van, also laden with play materials, made regular rounds for in the six camps where families affected were living temporarily. "The SOS library has a good selection of books. I borrowed comics and stories, and read them all", explains twelve-year-old Shana. But it was not just about lending books. The volunteers played with the children, told or read them stories, drew pictures with them, showed them how to do origami, and gave lessons (in matters of hygiene and health as well). And in this way they tried to allay the children's fears following their terrible experiences and alleviate the shock – an emergency relief campaign which was warmly welcomed by the Indonesian Children's Protection Commission (KPAI).

Most of the emergency relief camps have now closed, and the people have moved on and have rebuilt their lives.


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