Indonesian Red Cross provides psychosocial support for children affected by Aceh earthquake

Publié: 22 décembre 2016 10:35 CET


By Paulus Enggal, IFRC


Cut Murnita, a 33-year-old Indonesian Red Cross volunteer, has a gift for telling stories. For the children of Gampong Tampui, Aceh, her folk tales are helping them to temporarily forget their recent traumatizing earthquake experience. Gathering under a tamarind tree, they respond to her stories with laughter and smiles. 


The  6.5 magnitude earthquake that rocked Pidie Jaya District in Indonesia’s Aceh province on 7 December killed 102 people and injured more than 600. As part of its response to the emergency, the Indonesian Red Cross is providing psychosocial support services to help earthquake victims cope with the after-effects of the disaster.


“These story-telling sessions are part of the  Red Cross’ psychosocial support services,” said Murnita. “We are spending more time with the children because schools have been closed after the earthquake and they have no other activities to occupy their time.”


Miswar, a 29-year-old Red Cross volunteer from Banda Aceh, added that many people are still fearful of the earthquake’s impacts. “Even now, there are aftershocks in Pidie Jaya,” he explained. “In some communities, people are choosing to stay in temporary shelters and tents, even though their houses have not been damaged.”


The children were also encouraged to play games and participate in singing and drawing sessions to cheer them up, but Murnita, who was actively involved in psychosocial support services following the Indian-Ocean tsunami in 2004, believes that the process requires time and patience.


“We ask them to tell us their hobbies or their dreams, but most of them would rather speak about their experience during the earthquake,” said Murnita. “Children are always the ones who are most affected in disasters. These sessions provide a safe space for them to express their feelings and thoughts.”


Some of the children have lost close family members, friends or neighbors and are displaying visible signs of trauma.


“I am still afraid of the earthquake, and worry about it happening again,” said 14-year-old Selia Putri. “My friend was killed when her house collapsed. I don’t want to be like her.”


Through songs and games, the children are learning how to protect themselves and to identify safe areas during an earthquake.


“We’re glad that the Red Cross came here to help the children,” said 42-year-old Jarnati, one of the villagers of Gampong Tampui. “They can laugh and play with their peers and just be children again.” 


Two weeks after the earthquake, the Red Cross has reached nearly 1,800 people with psychosocial support services in Pidie Jaya.


Arifin Muhammad Hadi,  Division Head of Disaster Management for the Indonesian Red Cross in Aceh, explained that the psychosocial support services will be expanded to include resilience building of the quake-affected communities.


“Apart from psychosocial support sessions to help reduce their trauma, we will also conduct activities to empower community members to prepare for future disasters.”