On 19-21 April, we partnered with local NGO Barakat to distribute aid packages for 123 families who were impacted by flash floods in Lembata, East Nusa Tenggara. The families are those who have to stay in shelters after the Seroja Cyclone caused flash floods that swept out their houses.
Over the past month, the evacuees have had no choice but to stay collectively in around 3×4 meter wooden huts located on their farms. These huts used to be the place where they store their yields. In one hut, there is even more than one family living in with no space left.
We distributed aid packages that include food, kitchen utensils, sanitation kits, mattresses, and drink water. Despite the aid they received from many organizations, some basic needs are still unfulfilled, ultimately clean water, emergency toilets, and shelter equipment. Specific needs for vulnerable groups and women are also still unavailable.
The first-day distribution was started in Keakodun and Duliwoho hamlets. There were three huts lived by eight families here. The next day, distribution was held in Padu, Duliwoho, and Tookonen hamlets for 24 huts lived by 68 families. On the third day, the packages were received by 36 families in Duliwoho.
After being hit by Cyclone Seroja followed by flash floods and landslides in early April, Lembata is one of the worst affected areas in NTT. The local government has even set an emergency response period for almost a month until May 5, 2021.
Based on data released by the main post of Lembata Disaster Management Agency (BPBD) (25/4), the flash floods have resulted in 46 people dead, 23 people missing, 55 people injured, 1,770 families (approximately 5,490 people) displaced, 604 houses damaged, 68 units public facilities were severely damaged, and other material losses.
Even though the search and rescue activity had been dismissed by the local government, the community is still independently conducting the search for their missing family member.
Meanwhile, as of now, thousands of families from 16 affected villages are still living in shelters. Generally, there are three types of shelters.
Firstly, resident’s houses as shelters. As the flash flood happened, the evacuees sought cover to less-affected resident’s houses. For this type, generally there is a kinship between the host and the evacuees.
Secondly, wooden huts in farms as shelters. On average, families who evacuated here have their own wooden huts in the farms. The huts used to be the storage of their crops. During emergency periods, the huts function as shelters.
Then the last type is the shelters managed by the local government. The government re-function public facilities, such as offices and schools, as shelters for evacuees.
Evacuees in Farms
Kea Kodun, Duliwoho, Podu, Roko Onen, Besaman Hurun, Sinaria
Evacuees in Resident’s Houses
Lewoleba Timur Sub-district
Evacuees in Government-managed Evacuation Post
Source: Barakat, 2021
Based on the field team observation, the most concerning situation is the shelters in farms. As the evacuees need to live crammed in very small huts, they also have to struggle with inadequate supply of clean water and healthy emergency toilets. Other than that, the huts that are usually open put the evacuees in vulnerability when night falls.
Although there was a dug well that had been built long before the disaster, it was not enough to meet the needs of all the families living in dispersed areas. Moreover, the distance between the well point and most of the huts was very far.
Several emergency toilet units are actually being built by a number of volunteer organizations. But almost like a well, the location of the toilet was far from the evacuee’s hut. In practice, they end up having no choice but to openly defecate in the garden.
Luckily, the evacuees are still able to meet their food needs as the corn harvest season from their gardens is underway. In addition, the stock of peanuts from the previous harvest is still available. Pumpkin planted around the cottage is also another option that they can pick at any time.
The government plans to relocate and build permanent housing (Huntap) for 1,889 evacuee families. However, this plan has the potential to trigger new problems.
Firstly, the land for relocation prepared by the government triggers land ownership disputes between several tribes. They both claim the land is their own. So far, there is no clarity on the progress of the dispute resolution process.
Secondly, there are protests in the community regarding the data on evacuees who will receive permanent housing. The problem of invalid data is considered to be the cause. The local community claimed that the data of Huntap recipients was decided unilaterally by the central government, without the involvement of those who understand the situation in the village.
Due to the problems, evacuees are most likely to stay longer in evacuation shelters, especially those who live in the wooden huts in farm areas. If so, then basic needs such as clean water, emergency toilets, shelter equipment, as well as special needs for vulnerable groups and women are still top priorities that must be provided immediately. (Ed)