Tsunami in Indonesia 2018

What was ActionAid’s response to the Indonesian tsunami?

Immediate response

In the first two weeks, YAPPIKA-ActionAid (YAA) worked with a network of local organisations called Sulteng Bergerak to bring relief to at least 60,000 people. Local volunteers provided supplies, ran emergency kitchens serving hot food to displaced people and participated in search and resuce missions. 

  • In the first two weeks since the disaster, ActionAid and its partners launched a team of more than 60 staff and volunteers in Palu, Donggala, and Sigi — working round the clock, delivering aid to thousands of affected people.
  • Our emergency appeal raised nearly £1.2m.
  • We opened public kitchens in twelve of the worst hit areas where thousands remain without food or proper shelter. Our public kitchens on the West Coast, Donggala, Sigi and the city of Palu are have served thousands of people a day with hot, nutritious meals.
  • 1,785 families were provided with food through the community kitchen and food kits.
  • We reached at least 60,000 people with emergency aid, including tents, tarpaulins and blankets to shelter families who lost their homes, and food, water, clothing and nappies.
  • 400 sanitary kits were distributed to women and girls to manage their periods safely.
  • Three women-friendly spaces were set up reaching at least 600 women directly.

Six-month response

We then launched a six-month response with our partners on the ground, focusing on food, water, shelter, psycho-social support and the protection of women and girls living in temporary camps. We supported families by rebuilding homes for the most vulnerable, supporting sustainable livelihoods such as farming and recovery of women’s economic activity such as trading or food processing so families can once again earn a living. 

Long-term response

ActionAid worked closely with local authorities and local communities - especially women who have been involved in all stages of the emergency response - from consulting to implementation of activities.

Women were trained to receive complaints and feedback to ensure that women in the communities felt empowered to share their views.

We have reached over 3,700 affected people, including 2,702 women and girls, with support:

  • Providing food assistance to the most vulnerable with supplies of rice, oil, salt, tea and sugar
  • Developed water and waste management systems in the form of water filters and new toilets
  • Converting 25 shelters into expandable houses for long-term living
  • Setting up Women Friendly Spaces have and training women in Palu and Donggala districts
  • Distributing sanitary kits among women and girls. They contain sanitary pads, underwear, toothpaste and other items
  • Restoring/replacing boats and fishing equipment to help support local livelihoods that rely on fishing for food and income
  • Supporting women's small businesses with training and business management classes
  • Providing communities with access to key information about the programmes and interventions, and hosting regular forums where everyone is invited to share feedback on the activities.

The aerial view of affected by the earthquake and liquefaction at Balaroa. The Balaroa area is a densely populated residential area. Photo: ActionAid

About tsunamis and their impact

What is a tsunami?

A tsunami is a giant wave. Tsunami waves can travel up to speeds of jet planes over deep waters, only slowing down when reaching shallow waters.

What causes a tsunami?

Tsunamis are caused by earthquakes or volcanic eruptions beneath the sea. As waves move closer to the shore, they become increasingly high as the ocean’s depth reduces.

Where is Indonesia?

Indonesia is in Southeast Asia, between the Indian and Pacific oceans. It has more than thirteen thousand islands, making it the world’s largest island country.

What were the worst affected areas?

The aftershocks and landslides caused significant damage and loss of life in the affected areas of Palu, Sigi, Donggala and Parigi Moutong. 

What is soil liquefaction?

There were reports and footage of buildings collapsing after the Indonesian earthquake due to soil liquefaction. It occurs in saturated, loose soil that is suddenly shaken, causing the bond between particles to loosen. This means the soil begins to behave like a liquid, and can no longer support foundations for buildings. 

What are Women Friendly Spaces?

In the aftermath of a distaster or emergency, ActionAid sets up dedicated centres for women where they can meet in private and share their experiences. It is a safe space where women can access legal, medical and psychological support. 

In Indonesia we have set up two Women Friendly Spaces in the villages of Pakuli (in Sigi) and Panau to support 400 women affected by the tsunami. Our trained counsellors are involved in educating women on their rights, helping them set up their businesses and providing support to survivors of domestic violence and gender discrimination. 

The spaces also provide childcare and activities for children so that mothers and caretakers can attend meetings. Our Women Friendly Space in Panau has a terrace for women to socialise.

Fiani is a counsellor at one of ActionAid's Women Friendly Spaces in Indonesia.

Alessandro Serrano/ActionAid

Supporting women to tell their stories

Fiani, 23, travelled from village to village to encourage women to attend ActionAid's Women Friendly Spaces.

She supported women who have experienced inequality and violence at home. "For these women, deciding to tell and share their experience is already a big step. The first towards a different awareness of their rights."

In parts of Indonesia women are often relegated to domestic roles including cooking and looking after the children. But after the tsunami struck, it became a lot easier to involve local women in rebuilding families and communities. 

Fiani believes this is because many families lost everything in the tsunami. Men, who are normally reticent to permit their wives or daughters from getting involved in public life, were now more comfortable with their female family members bringing in income and supplies. But this is a double-edged sword.

"When women find work, they also have to take care of the house. If the woman works and the man does not, the result is that the woman has a double job and the man does nothing from morning to night. This is why we are organising discussion groups on these issues at the centre, so that there is greater awareness of gender equality."

Sikola is helping to rebuild her community

Before the earthquake and tsunami, Sikola sold food in the markets but her house became damaged and uninhabitable after the tsunami. 

Even though she is a survivor herself, Sikola wanted to volunteer to help other fellow survivors. ActionAid works with women in communities hit by crises by training them as leaders in disaster-preparedness. We support women in coordinating distribution of aid, recruiting local volunteers, and ensuring women and children's needs are met. 

In the aftermath of the disaster, Sikola led a public, emergency kitchen in Anggur. The kitchen helped provide hot, nutritious food for displaced people around the Balaroa district.

Ros, a volunteer cook, distributing nutritious food in the aftermath of the disaster


The impact of the tsunami on women and children

Wahida's family home was destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami. She had to move to a coconut farm which was turned into a shelter for displaced people.

There were limited supplies for pregnant women and new mothers during the crisis. People were getting ill due to poor nutrition and unfiltered drinking warer. 

Wahida's supplies of food, water and formula milk were running low. ActionAid was quick to respond by distributing relief materials including bottles of water, nappies, blankets, underwear, sanitary napkins, baby powder, baby clothes and baby mosquito nets to mothers and pregnant women. 

Top image: Local women leading the sorting and distribution of donated clothes after the 2018 earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia. Andri Tambunan/ActionAid

Page updated 27 June 2023