When PD is in Your Soul: Story from Palu Earthquake and Tsunami Sulawesi, Indonesia

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Author: Susi Widiastuti


On behalf of my friends and colleagues, Aji and Adam, I would like to share a recent PD story with you from Indonesia. 

As you may know, on September 28, 2018, a 7.5 magnitude shallow earthquake struck the island of Sulawesi - Indonesia in three areas: Palu, Donggala and Sigi. It was followed by a tsunami.

My friends working for the Ministry Health in Jakarta as nutritionists joined the first responders 7 members team from the Health Crisis Center, Reproductive Health & Environmental Health departments.

Samkani (Aji) and Asep Adam Mutakin were introduced to PD back in 2005 and had worked with me and Randa Wilkinson up to 2010 on the application of the PD approach to child malnutrition in West Java. They belong to a large group of PD trainers who have facilitated PD nutrition projects all over Indonesia. 

In Palu their first tasks were to assess the health situation of the population affected especially nutrition issues among children and support the government teams and volunteers. 

They faced tremendous problem locating remaining local government staff since most of them had been evacuated. They found only one! Also the existing health posts had been badly damaged and there was only one distribution emergency food functioning under the Department of Social Welfare. So with lack of human resources and infrastructure, they quickly realized that the government had to work with local and international NGOs if they were to meet the immediate needs of people affected by the disaster.

Based on their preliminary observations they found that most local and international organizations were handing out “instant/factory produced” food including formula milk to children and instant noodle packages. This situation raised their concern about the potential risk for children to develop diarrheal diseases, especially with formula milk which necessitate using water, as well as the lack of nutritional value in the food hand-outs. 

Thus, with limited time on their hands before returning to their office in Jakarta, Aji and Adam after a short discussion decided to at least use the “PD” way to solve the problem. They set out about finding a "PD organization” i.e, an organization which is not giving instant food to children at the emergency aid post.  To their utter surprise and relief, based on their observation, they found one such local organization who was giving food that had been well cooked for the children.  This organization bought the food in traditional markets, which have sprung up right after the disaster, and their staff cooked and distributed the food to families at aid post. 

Armed with this discovery, Adam and Aji reached out to the entire local and international organizations that responded to the earthquake or that had established food program before the earthquake,  involved in providing emergency packaged food handouts for the children and pregnant women.  They invited their representatives to the first coordination meeting and asked them to follow this “PD” organization as a model explaining the importance of involving the family in the relief food program activities, because all the organizations would not be there forever. The families would be able to practice and continue providing healthy nutritious local food for their kids and pregnant mothers well beyond the emergency phase.

Together, they developed a nutrition activity for children based on the Nutrition Education Rehabilitation Program (NERP – part of the use of the PD approach to fight childhood malnutrition implemented with some success in Indonesia before).

They carried out a quick market survey, invited mothers to have discussion and worked with local government and non profit organizations staff in managing the activities where mothers take turn in cooking and feeding their children together and having fun activities for the children. The local organization is in charge of supplying the food and Save the Children and World Vision (INGOs) provide hygiene kits in collaboration with the local government.

Until now (November 2018), the organizations (including UNICEF) not only have set up their original PMBA (Food distribution for kids and infant) program, but expanded as NERP (Nutrition Education Rehabilitation Program) integrating PMBA in it. And it is not only involving the Nutrition Department but also Health  Promotion Department.

Here is the link of video from Aji that I am happy to be able to share with you:

In minutes 3:30, the mother says: “My daughter usually doesn’t want to eat this kind of soup when I cook it for her, I don’t know why she likes it now.” 

Other mother says: “We usually only have instant noodles and egg in this post.”

For more information, contact Susi Widiastuti at: susiwidiastuti@gmail.com