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Report card on disaster preparedness

A woman cries while searching for family members amidst the ruins of her collapsed home in Meulaboh, Aceh on 2 January, 2005. Meulaboh, the capital of West Aceh Regency, was one of the hardest hit areas
A woman cries while searching for family members amidst the ruins of her collapsed home in Meulaboh, Aceh on 2 January, 2005. Meulaboh, the capital of West Aceh Regency, was one of the hardest hit areas (Jefri Aries/IRIN)

A new World Health Organization (WHO) assessment reviews Indonesia’s emergency preparedness and identifies needed improvements, which experts and government officials agree are critical.

“The biggest challenge is at district level, which requires commitment from all 33 provinces simultaneously, and all districts within those provinces,” Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for the government’s National Agency for Disaster Management (BNPB), told IRIN.

Indonesia consists of around 17,500 islands, of which about 6,000 are inhabited by over 238 million people. The country lies along the “Pacific Rim of Fire”, a zone of volcanoes and frequent earthquakes, where a high level of disaster preparedness is essential.

Emergency preparedness is measured against benchmarks developed by WHO, the Indonesian government, NGOs and academic institutions.

Expanding local capacity

Benchmark 2 - developing disaster preparedness plans and emergency standard operating procedures (SOPs) in the health sector - is problematic, partly because government staff changes have impeded knowledge transfer and capacity development.

Benchmark 7 - the ability of communities to provide emergency services and supplies - scored high, as such services are already strategically positioned in all of Indonesia’s high-risk communities.

However, Aryono Pusponegoro, chairman of the 118 Emergency Ambulance Foundation, a national medical NGO set up by a group of Indonesian surgeons, noted that the level of service delivery varies. “You cannot manage disasters properly if your day-to-day emergency care is not up to standard, and our pre-hospital ambulance service is still in an embryonic state,” he said. 

“Disaster relief teams can only arrive on the scene within 24 hours, and in this case many victims are already dead.”


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Benchmark 4 - public-private cooperation - underlined how well the Indonesian Health Ministry has worked with the private sector and academic institutions in planning emergency responses, but Titi Moektijasih, a humanitarian affairs analyst in the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Indonesia, said there was room for improvement.

“The government needs to do more to reach out to the private sector, which is essential in Indonesia because it is such a large country,” she said. “There’s no mechanism for [private] health stakeholders to support the government, which impacts on the issue of funding, because collaboration will make the sector more efficient.”


The Hyogo Framework, adopted at the World Conference on Disaster Mitigation, encourages countries to build disaster resilience is running from 2005 to 2015.

Benchmark 8 - developing awareness of pre-, during and post-disaster scenarios built - emerged from the Framework.

“A key pillar of Hyogo was building a culture of resilience at all levels through education,” Moektijasih said. “That theme is built upon in this recent report through Benchmark 8. The government has extensive awareness-raising activities going on in schools, and many young people are much more aware now of disaster situations, which definitely enhances Indonesia’s readiness and is a real success.”

However, Moektijasih said the report did not appear to deal with prevention - a key element of emergency preparedness - through social and economic practices, land planning and natural resource management.

The national disaster agency’s Nugroho said, overall, the report reflects how Indonesia’s disaster readiness has improved. “There’s a lot of ground to cover and no one will ever be [fully] ready, but we are definitely more ready now than we were last year, and next year we will improve again.”


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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