Jakarta floods: Two aid groups, different emergency response

People move along a flooded street in Indonesia after last week's heavy rains. Photo by: nSeika / CC BY

Indonesia’s capital is in a state of emergency after heavy rains caused flooding in many parts of the metropolis. The way aid groups are assessing the situation – and responding – varries greatly.

Some aid officials have asked for more funding to put relief plans for thousands of affected people in motion, while others are more confident that the emergency situation is under control given the government’s muscular response and support from the private sector and nongovernmental organizations.

The Indonesian government is leading Jakarta-area relief efforts through what it calls the incident command mechanism, a military management plan closely tied to the U.N. cluster system. This is the first time the mechanism has been used; the government will assess its effectiveness on Jan. 23.

Several aid groups have commended Indonesian authorities for their actions. Billy Sumuan, World Vision Indonesia’s humanitarian and emergency affairs director, for instance, told Devex that the government’s information dissemination prevented the worst because early warnings helped people prepare for the harsh weather. 

Lilik Trimaya, Oxfam’s emergency response coordinator in Indonesia, lauded the government’s guidance as well, but suggested that the national and regional disaster management agencies be “clearer” with the information they release, citing some discrepancies between national and district-level updates.

If the two relief officers differ somewhat on their assessment of the ground game, their organizations certainly are taking different approaches in their emergency response, illustrating the aid community’s diversity in purpose and planning.

World Vision issued a $1 million appeal on Jan. 18 to fund its response plan without “jeopardizing” its budget for other projects. The response’s first three months would focus on providing for immediate needs and the next three months on helping communities clean up, recover and ensure proper hygiene.

While it is soliciting those funds, World Vision has suspended six of its development projects in the area, five of which were affected by the floods, to concentrate resources on emergency relief. According to Sumuan, the organization has been assisting the affected population in the city since Jan. 16 by providing non-food items such as hygiene kits, blankets, life jackets and mattresses.

Reaching some of the inundated areas remains a challenge; water levels remain at up to three meters. And “this is only the beginning,” Sumuan said, citing rainy weather forecasts.

Oxfam did not make an appeal for more funding.  

“The situation is not yet big so we haven’t mobilized most of our resources yet,” Trimaya explained. “We believe the capacity of the government, the private sector donors and other players can still address the essential and urgent needs.”

Oxfam’s “small-scale” emergency response, mainly composed of non-food items, is closely coordinated with UNICEF. Oxfam is conducting in-depth situation analyses to determine the most affected areas, target populations and sectors that need attention. Currently, the organization is assessing water, sanitation and hygiene needs in evacuation centers.

Trimaya says the need for more information is palpable – for communities to prepare and for responders to better target their work.

One thing the two experts agree on, though, is the importance of disaster risk reduction programs that help governments plan and citizens participate in resiliency initiatives. Meanwhile, thoug, the focus is on the days immediately ahead in Jakarta: The rainy season in Indonesia is expected to last until March.

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About the author

  • Adrienne Valdez

    Adrienne Valdez is a former staff writer for Devex, covering breaking international development news. Before joining Devex, Adrienne worked as a news correspondent for a public-sector modernization publication.