Christian aid groups dig in to help Indonesian quake victims

Several Christian aid groups are offering assistance to the victims of last week’s devastating earthquakes on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. On Wednesday and Thursday successive quakes of 7.6 and 6.6 magnitudes jolted the island nation. The death toll is the and around the Sumatran city of Padang is more than 600 people. That total in the city of about 900,000 people will rise as Indonesian officials ended search and rescue operations Monday and are now focused on the somber task to removing bodies from the rubble and rebuilding communities. According to the Web site of ChildFund International – formerly known as Christian Children’s Fund – local United Nations officials stated that the toll could rise up to 1,100. More than 80 percent of the local structures including schools, hospitals, local buildings and shops have been destroyed. ChildFund Indonesia has sent assessment teams to the area in and around Padang. “Response is very slow because there are still blackouts in the earthquake area, telephone lines are cut, there is no electricity and the connecting roads from neighboring cities and provinces are severely damaged,” said Sharon Thangadurai, National Director for ChildFund Indonesia. ChildFund Indonesia will work with the local government when the internally displaced camps are set up to establish child-centered spaces in those camps. “Our priority will be to provide the needed psychosocial support to children who always bear the brunt of major disasters like this. We know that parents will bring their children to a safe place where they can play and find some normalcy again in the face of major disasters,” said Thangadurai. Samaritan’s Purse, the relief agency headed by Franklin Graham, has workers on the ground in Padang. Emergency supplies, including plastic sheeting for temporary shelters, tool kits, blankets, hygiene kits, and food parcels are being distributed by the ministry. It is also active elsewhere in the Pacific Rim providing aid and services to people affected by the quakes and related tsunami on the islands of Tonga and Samoa. Campus Crusade for Christ has sent out a direct e-mail plea for assistance. The ministry which seeks to engage college students in Christian life, is asking supporters to donate at least $7 to bring food, water and medical supplies for a short period of time to one person impacted by the quake. World Relief, which specializes domestically and internationally with refugee care and resettlement, has dispatched emergency relief teams into the region. World Vision is also making efforts to serve quake victims as some Sumatran children returned to school Monday amid the devastation. Re-establishing clean water sources and safe environments for children is a priority. “From the terror of aftershocks to the vulnerability of their immune systems to the need to have a normal routine, children’s vulnerabilities are magnified in a disaster like this,” said Amelia Merrick, Operations Director for World Vision in Indonesia. “It’s absolutely critical that emergency response teams make children’s unique needs a priority. Even though the ground has stopped shaking, the West Sumatra quake’s youngest survivors still face a daily struggle, both physically and psychologically.” World Vision, similar to ChildFund, is setting up child-friendly spaces and is collecting items such as blankets, soap, and tarpaulins for distribution. The team will also distribute collapsible water containers to families in Padang. The agency is appealing for $2 million to ramp up its response and said the costs could increase once the full extents of the needs are known. World Vision aims to provide 10,000 households with emergency supplies. It is also appealing for aid in related flooding in India and the Philippines and the Samoan tsunami. Adding to the relief effort is UNICEF, the UN’s child aid and advocacy organization. UNICEF is providing 250 school tents as part of its initial support to re-starting education, along with school materials and recreational equipment. In addition, in an effort to prevent possible disease outbreaks, the first water storage bladders have been set up in areas affected by the earthquake, along with jerry cans and hygiene kits. In total, UNICEF is aiming to provide immediate life-saving supplies for up to 50,000 families. “Many children I have met amidst the shattered buildings of Padang expressed their fears for the future – they are worried about more shocks, about losing their homes, and about never going back to school again,” said UNICEF Country Representative in Indonesia, Angela Kearney. “Today, children can see that schools will re-open, and that they will be able to continue their learning. It’s a first step towards bringing the comfort and reassurance that these children so desperately need.” Links: Toll climbs to 608 in Indonesian quakes: Aid pours into quake-hit Indonesia: ChildFund: Samaritan’s Purse: Campus Crusade for Christ: World Relief: World Vision: UNICEF:

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