Adianto P. Simamora, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Fri, 01/30/2009 8:41 AM
Disaster reponse by the government and humanitarian workers is still below the United Nations’ minimum standard, a report said.
The 2008 Indonesia Humanitarian Forum report said the poor responses happened amid a sharp decrease in the number of fatalities from disasters during 2008.
“We found that disaster response management in Indonesia does not yet fully comply with the minimum standards set by the UN, which is called the Sphere,” Hening Parland, the Indonesia Humanitarian Forum executive director, said Thursday.
The forum conducted a study — based on media analysis from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2008 — and found that the government and humanitarian institutions only applied some of the Sphere standards.
The Sphere Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response was first launched in 1997 by humanitarian NGOs, the Red Cross and the Red Crescent movement.
Sphere is based on two core beliefs: first, all possible steps should be taken to alleviate human suffering arising from a disaster; second, those affected by a disaster have a right to live with dignity and a right to assistance.
“The lowest scores [for the Indonesian government and aid workers] were on evaluation, competency and humanitarian workers’ responsibility. Many of the workers are not even covered under an insurance scheme,” Hening said.
“Many humanitarian workers are not aware of their vulnerability to the disasters while working in the field.”
Hening said the activists’ poor competency on disaster management would also hamper the sustainability of humanitarian programs.
The study showed that many of the disaster responses were still regarded simply as a “relief initiative” rather than as a comprehensive implementation of rights, as stipulated in Act 2007 on disaster management which mandated security and protection as basic human rights.
Indonesia is prone to natural disasters — ranging from earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunami — due to its location on the “Ring of Fire” volcanic belt.
Poor environmental management in most of the country’s 33 provinces, coupled with the impact of climate change, has made Indonesia more prone to floods and landslides.
Data from the Indonesian Humanitarian Forum showed there were 236 cases of disasters last year, with floods at 130 cases, followed by tropical storms (43 cases) and landslides (35 cases).
The Health Ministry said that a total of 7,618 people were killed during 2006 in 162 natural disasters nationwide. It also said that the number of disasters increased to 205 recorded events in 2007, killing 766 people.
The number of disasters increased last year with 408 cases. However, the number of fatalities decreased to 321 people.
“The decline in the death rate is due to the presence and the application of early warning systems, including those for floods and landslides. However, coordination among government offices and agencies to deal with the disasters remains poor,” Hening said.
The forum also criticized the effectiveness of regulations issued by the government and regional administrations regarding natural disaster mitigation.
“We have found there are 57 regulations related to disaster mitigation management. The effectiveness of these rules remains unclear,” Hening said.
The Humanitarian Forum, which consists of eight NGOs, including Muhammadiyah Disaster Management and Wahana Visi Indonesia, also plans to educate 1,000 humanitarian workers this year to help carry out missions in the field.
The Sphere’s eight standards:
- Public participation
- Preliminary study
- Determining targets
- Humanitarian workers’ responsibility, supervision management and support to staff.