Community-focused emergency tsunami response in Indonesia

Despite facing the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and the aftermath of a tsunami, with connections to capital and local markets, people in Indonesia were able to improve their livelihoods.

“I am convinced that my business will continue to prosper,” says one woman in Indonesia, even in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis and just after a tsunami. What would it take to make you confident in a brighter future? To believe that your business would continue to thrive—even in the face of incredible challenges? For this woman, she says, “I have all the necessary raw material here and … we also received marketing training with other methods to calculate cost and manage funds.”

A little more confidence in her business skills, some connections to local markets, and cash transfers to cope with the immediate crisis—as well as government systems that are supporting infrastructure like clean water, and this woman is ready to take on the world.

The DEC-funded Indonesia tsunami response operated from 2018-2020 with $1.1 million from the government of the UK. Partnering with Pos Keadilan Peduli Umat/ Humanitarian Initiative (PKPU), the project reached 28,043 people.

What changed?

  • People earned more money. 98% of people said the project helped them improve household income, and 93% said they got new skills and knowledge.
  • People are satisfied. 98% of people were satisfied with the support they got, and 97% said the project supported what they needed most.
  • COVID response happened fast: 95% of people said that the food distributions to cope with the COVID-19 crisis came in time to be useful.
  • Water is cleaner. 1,938 people got clean water, and there was a 61% increase in communities that were using safer sewage systems.
  • Communities are cleaner. 5,501 people got safer sanitation—including soap and water to wash their hands and hygiene kits for 2,127 people.
  • Handwashing has gone up. 48% of people are washing their hands more often and adopting safe sanitation.
  • People have safer places to stay. 2,610 people got cash or equipment to repair their homes or have a temporary shelter.

How did it happen?

  • Embrace local leadership. The project worked with PKPU as a local partner and hired local staff who understood the situation and the community. They provided a lot of on the job training and support to ensure that staff could be successful and get the help they needed.
  • Let people decide who participates. Communities themselves picked who was going to be part of the project, and deliberately chose areas and individuals that other NGOs were not yet serving so that resources could go to everyone who needed them.
  • Promote equality. The project included gender equality in all activities—including creating the “Women Champions in Reconstruction” event that raised awareness about how women were helping rebuild their communities, and how to better support them.
  • Listen to feedback. The team set up ways for communities to say what they wanted to repair their homes, and to offer feedback on proposed designs. More importantly, they actually changed the designs based on what communities told them about what would and would not work. In fact, the team saw that there was so much money for shelter from other actors that they waited to spend that money so they could fill in gaps that others weren’t able to do.
  • Focus on what people say they need. The team started with a Rapid Gender Analysis to understand local needs—especially for women. They also shared the RGA with everyone responding to the emergency so that all agencies had a good frame of reference for the challenges people were facing. It also included some thinking about how to support people with disabilities in the response.
  • Give cash when people need it. Early on, the project provided cash through a range of options—cash for work to rebuild local sanitation systems, and cash grants for repairing homes. Over time, with feedback from community members, they transitioned to more training and connecting people to market opportunities.
  • Don’t rely entirely on digital. Communities really preferred paper suggestion boxes as ways to communicate with the program and give feedback. These were easier to access, and accessible to more people, than any of the digital methods like Whatsapp or a feedback hotline.
  • Work with others. The project connected to the local government to support and maintain water systems, and connected to the local health center staff to coordinate efforts. They also worked with Women Champions in Reconstruction and community water groups to ensure that the project was working and people were getting what they needed.
  • Adapt quickly. When COVID-19 hit, the project was able to budget for handwashing supplies, food packages, and hygiene kits when people needed them most.

Want to learn more?

Check out the evaluation.