“This is it. The end-of-world is here”

 Emergency Response
 21st Dec 2018

Nine-month pregnant Citra is sitting on the wooden bench with her two toddlers by her side, staring at her collapsed house. The rubble was all that is left from her home. On September 28, a powerful earthquake shook the earth; a tremor that she nor everyone else in her village has ever felt before. "I stumbled and fell heavily on the ground. I felt as if something huge trying to come out from underneath. I was terrified. And when people started to scream that high waves of seawater is coming, I knew that this is it; the end-of-world is here..."

Citra lives in Loli Tasiburi village, Donggala district, Sulawesi island, Indonesia, with her husband and two sons, 5-year-old Alzahwan, and one-year-old Irwansyah Setiawan. The village is located on the west coast of long, narrow Palu bay. When the 7.4 magnitude earthquake and tsunami hit, she was home alone and was not prepared at all for the disaster. Her husband and her two kids were in the city of Palu. Fearing for her life and that of her unborn baby, she fled to the hills, carrying nothing but the clothes she wore.

“I got out of our home and ran to the hills as fast as I could, following the crowd. Along the way, I prayed from the heart, please God, please save us,” said Citra, caressing her belly as if talking to the baby.

That night, 21 homes in Loli Tasiburi village were flattened to the ground. Around 600 families fled their homes and slept under the sky up in the hills, fearing for the returning aftershocks and raging waves. Like Citra, many were separated from their families. Luckily for her, she was reunited with her husband and two sons the next day. The family stayed in tents without enough food nor water, and with limited and poor sanitation facilities.

"It is very hard to live with that condition while you are pregnant, with two small children,” she whispers. “There was no proper bathroom there; not enough water to clean myself and my children. Also, there were too many people in one place. I did not feel safe at all.”

Women and girls, especially pregnant woman like Citra, are amongst the most vulnerable to natural disasters. The sudden and long-lasting stress could potentially lead to adverse birth outcomes such as low birthweight and premature labor. Furthermore, poor hygiene and unsanitary conditions can cause sickness, and at some cases, an outbreak.

CARE has already helped over 2,000 families affected by the disaster with life-saving kits including tarpaulins and mattress, cooking ware, and hygiene kits which include water purification tablets and feminine hygiene. The intervention is part of CARE’s effort to ensure that women and girls get their basics needs fulfilled during the emergency period.

Despite all that happened, Citra remains hopeful. Her wish is simple; to survive labor without another earthquake or tsunami, and for her children to have everything they need. Citra is now counting down the days until the birth of her baby.

“We have not chosen a name for our baby. I could not think of anything yet,” she says while taking her youngest son onto her lap. She hopes that perhaps next year, they could rebuild their home. “This is the only place we have. There is no other place to go.”

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