accessibility & help

Six months on from West Sumatra earthquake

1 April 2010

A child in west Sumatra, Indonesia, following the 2009 earthquakeAs neighbours put the finishing touches to her temporary shelter, Jusni and her seven children look on, smiling.  “It’s still under construction but I’m really excited to have this new house,” she says proudly.

Jusni lives in the village of Nagari Ketaping in Padang Pariaman district, West Sumatra. Her village was close to the epicentre of the devastating earthquake that struck the region on 31 September 2009, leaving 1,117 people dead and over 114,000 homes severely damaged.

The earthquake left large cracks in the walls of her home gaping holes where large areas of the ceiling caved in. With nowhere else to stay, the living room of her damaged home became the only habitable space for Jusni and her large family.  It’s a dire situation, especially for her granddaughter who is just learning how to walk. Even now, the mild aftershocks which continue to affect the region cause the family to run outside the house to sleep in the open yard.

Critical shelter needs

Jusni is one of 2,500 people to have received cash grants under the Indonesian Red Cross transitional shelter programme, which is being supported by the British Red Cross. The programme provides funding to build 13,500 shelters across the worst affected areas of West Sumatra. Her new home is a simple 18 square metre wooden house with cement foundation and sago palm roof. All of the materials are available locally and the earthquake-resistant design is based on a model developed in co-operation with the local university – which costs only £210.

“Shelter is a critical need after an earthquake. Getting people back into a home of their own makes a big psychological difference when you are recovering from such a disaster,” explains Jan Willem Wegdam, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ recovery co-ordinator.

Eligibility for the shelter programme depends on whether a house is severely damaged and not suitable to live in. Priority is given to the elderly, the sick, families with young children and pregnant mothers, many of whom have been living in tents.

A community approach

The affected community has been actively involved from the outset of the programme. People receive cash grants in installments and buy the building materials themselves. The community is encouraged to help each other in the building process and Red Cross volunteers are on hand to provide technical guidance.

One of Jusni’s neigbours, Jabarin, shares a similar story. The only room that survived in his house was the kitchen. He has been forced to live in a tent for the past six months with his wife and five children.  “Living in the tent was difficult. It was very humid in the rainy season and my asthma became very serious,” he says.

With support from the men and women of the village it took Jabarin only seven days to complete his shelter which was built on the foundation of the former living room. He also used many salvaged materials like doors, windows and roof sheeting from his former home. 


Together with its shelter programme, the Red Cross has been working to improve or reconstruct water and sanitation systems in schools and communities as part of a wider community health and psychosocial support programme. So far, around £3.7 million has been spent on recovery efforts.

By May the local government is planning to start a cash stimulus program that aims to meet the permanent housing needs of earthquake survivors.

Find out more about the immediate response to the earthquake


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