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Indonesia: Thousands of families left homeless by Malaka floods

Bernadetta stands outside her temporary home after hers was destroyed by the floods

Bernadetta is 11. She and her family are living in a makeshift tarpaulin shelter: it is all they have left since the floods swept their home  away last month.

Bernadetta was at home with her two younger sisters when water levels started to rise. When I visited the evacuation camp in Malaka District in Nusa Tenggara Timur province where her family is staying, she told me how she had escaped the floods. “There was a lot of rain”, she said. Her father hurriedly swam to the girls and took them to higher ground. They took little with them. “My house was destroyed in the floods. I cannot go home now,” Bernadetta told me.

At the subdistrict office 2km away, her mother managed to get hold of a tarpaulin sheet. They made a tiny tent out of it. The temporary roof mostly keeps them dry but the girls do not have blankets or sleeping mats to warm them at night.

This will be their home for the coming days.

Bernadetta’s family is only one of the 4,371 households that have been affected. Sixteen villages in Malaka District are flooded.

“I am worried about food, since my father’s field were damaged by flood.”

Bernadetta’s father’s corn fields were the family’s only source of income. Part of the harvest would also make their meals. Now, the fields lie under brown sludge. “I am worried about food, since my father’s field were damaged by flood,” says Bernadetta.

A total of 2,050 hectares of farming land across Malaka District have been destroyed. Villages have also lost their chickens, pigs and goats. Their food sources for the coming months are uncertain; so is their income.

The new school term will start in a few days. Most children, however, do not have books, stationery or school uniforms any more.

“I lost my uniform and books and school will begin in only a few days,” said Bernadetta, who is currently in 5th grade in elementary school. “I hope to get some food to eat, a school uniform and materials, and a sleeping mat and blanket.”

Save the Children is working to distribute school materials and backpacks to children in three of the worst-affected areas. We are giving immediate relief packages to families living in the temporary camps. The children’s aid agency also aims to set up school tents in areas where school buildings have been damaged, so that learning activities for the new term can continue. No matter what the situation now, these children will need their education when they grow up. The rains cannot be allowed to wash away their future.

By Yahdi Mayasya, Senior Project Officer Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in School Environment, Indonesia

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