Quake Survivors Start Rebuilding as Agencies Warn of Funding Gaps

This story originally appeared on ReliefWeb, November 30, 2009.

PADANG, 30 November 2009 (IRIN) - Funding shortfalls and a lag in government grants have left thousands of people without adequate shelter two months after a devastating earthquake hit Indonesia's West Sumatra province, agencies say.

The survivors are still living in makeshift tents and damaged houses after the quake on 30 September, and NGOs are appealing for more funding.

Graham Eastmond, coordinator of the emergency shelter cluster of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said NGOs needed US$25 million for transitional shelters in rural and semi-rural areas.

"They need the funding urgently because they are running out of money and because of the urgent need on the ground," Eastmond told IRIN. "It is the monsoon season. People are still under canvas or under tarps or returning to heavily damaged houses which are unsafe and it is raining hard every night."

The 7.9 magnitude earthquake off West Sumatra's coast hit the provincial capital of Padang city and surrounding districts, leaving 1,117 people dead.

Eastmond said National Disaster Management Agency data showed 182,000 houses moderately or severely damaged in the quake.

In rural and semi-urban areas, "around 30,000 transitional shelters are currently planned by NGOs and we've identified a gap of about 80,000 shelters", he said.

Charlie Mason, deputy team leader of Save the Children's West Sumatra earthquake response programme, said funding was so tight that his NGO was now focusing on advocacy to raise more money for a transitional housing cash grant programme.

"There's very little donor interest and funding in transitional shelter at the moment," said Mason.

Funding delays

The government plans to disburse cash grants to assist victims with rebuilding permanent housing, but officials said there would be a wait for the funds to come through.

"That probably won't be at least until March, when the central government revises the budget," said D Nuzul Putra, head of public relations for the West Sumatra government.

Akhi Ruddi, 46, from Koto Buruk in Padang Pariaman, the worst-affected district, said his village was starting to rebuild, but "we need wood, cement and nails. There are some people around here selling the materials, but we can't all afford to buy them."

He said people in his village were not prepared to wait for government help. "The government takes so long to do anything. We are worried that they'll never come. If they do, they'll probably take most of the money for themselves."

Cramped conditions

Along the roads of Padang Pariaman, thousands of houses bear pink signs that read "rusak berat" (severely damaged) and too dangerous to inhabit.

Many residents, however, are still living in these dwellings, while others are camped outside their homes under blue tarpaulins distributed by NGOs. Some have more substantial temporary shelters made of timber.

Many families have no choice but to cram into tents.

"Families living in overcrowded conditions can lead to separation of children, who are often sent to relatives and orphanages," said Mason. "There are health risks and risks of abuse. We've had reports of 20 people living in one tent."

CHF International, which specializes in housing, has begun a temporary shelter pilot project. It has erected 82 so far and plans to offer Pariaman residents 5,000 shelter kits.

"It will be a challenge to reach this target on schedule because of the rain," said CHF construction manager Muhamad Afrianto Fajrin.

Novridayanti, 30, a mother of three, has received a CHF shelter. She has access to electricity in her home and has started up a stall, where she sells rambutan fruit and fried snacks.

"I feel more independent now. I can do everything myself again," she said.

Novridayanti was sceptical of the government's plan to give cash grants next year, and would prefer NGOs to administer shelter aid.

"The government was supposed to give 80,000 rupiah [$8.50] to each Pariaman resident in a family of five or more. We only got payment for four people. Everyone I know in a family of five says the same," she said.

Novridayanti first lost her home in a 2007 earthquake. "The government was building us another house, but they still hadn't finished it when this one hit. What they had built was completely destroyed anyway," she said.

Instead of waiting for the government, many survivors have built their own temporary shelters or begun reconstructing their homes.

"The self-recovery rate is high, but families require technical assistance to ensure that the homes they are building meet international standards and are earthquake resistant," IFRC's Eastmond said.