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Reaching families displaced by massive floods

Indonesia, January 18, 2013

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Dewi Hanifah/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Days of heavy rains throughout Jakarta have flooded hundreds of thousands of homes. Photo: Dewi Hanifah/Mercy Corps
  <span class="field-credit">
    Dewi Hanifah/Mercy Corps  </span>
    In West Jakarta, more than 3,000 families displaced from their homes are crowded into five large tents. Photo: Dewi Hanifah/Mercy Corps
  <span class="field-credit">
    Dewi Hanifah/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Mothers and children are especially in need of protection from waterborne illness. Photo: Dewi Hanifah/Mercy Corps

Days of non-stop heavy seasonal rains in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, triggered floods that inundated a large part of the city, bringing it to a halt. Traffic came to a standstill, government offices and businesses shut down, and thousands of residents were forced to flee their homes this week.

According to the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, more than half of Jakarta’s 44 districts were hit with by the flood, resulting in the displacement of over 15,000 people. Nearly 100,000 more people are waiting to be evacuated from submerged homes. Details about the level of damage are still unclear as the government works to keep up with the rising waters.

Yesterday, as the flood paralyzed the whole city, our team ventured out to assess the needs of families we work with in West Jakarta. Getting there was very difficult, since continuous rain was dumping on us and flooding overtook our entire route.

WATCH VIDEO: Making our way through the floods

When we finally arrived, we saw that the water level reached almost two meters. This morning, we heard that it had risen another two meters — the water is now submerging two-story houses.

Thousands of people are crowded into five large tents, where they’ve been living for about a week since the floods first hit their homes. Community representatives said they had received food from government officials, but it was slow to be distributed and children and breastfeeding mothers didn’t have the nutrient-rich food they need.

We began by distributing 1,000 tarps to assist with shelter and 1,000 jerry cans for families to store clean water. Waterborne disease is already a reality in Jakarta’s crowded neighborhoods with poor sanitation; the flooding will only increase that risk in the encampments where people have gathered.

Our initial assistance is the crucial first step before we return this weekend with other essentials like hygiene kits, cleaning equipment and cooking utensils.

Authorities said that the heavy rainfall will likely still continue for the next two days and the current disaster has not reached its highest peak. Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo placed the entire capital under emergency status, and as of today, there is still no sign of respite in the flood-affected areas.

With additional reporting by Emergency Response Coordinator Dewi Hanifah.

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