Autumn has well and truly arrived, winds and floods punctuate the daily routine as we get the children off to school or tackle our commute to and from work. We curse the elements and, keeping our heads down, casually wish our lives away, already hankering for those lengthening evenings in spring.
Understandably our world revolves around our immediate priorities, our families, our work and the weather, that is more than enough to be getting on with.
However, imagine if this morning you were waking up lying on a ragged piece of tarpaulin, homeless without food or water, some of your family members dead, injured or missing. That is the terrifying reality for thousands of Indonesians in Sulawesi after their communities were consumed by last week’s powerful earthquake and the devastating tsunami which swept away pretty much everything in its wake.
Tens of thousands of homes have been destroyed and entire communities have been decimated, the number of deaths has passed 2,000. Exhausted and frustrated the Indonesian authorities stopped the search yesterday, anyone unaccounted for will be presumed dead; the death toll will never be truly known. Two whole communities are being designated as mass graves and will be left untouched.
In the face of this devastation and chaos so far away it is sometimes difficult to know how to react. Yes, huge sympathy but what can I really do?
That’s where the Disasters Emergency Committee, (DEC) comes in.
Fourteen of the UK’s leading international aid charities, in partnership with the main UK broadcasters, have over 50 years built up a powerful network of expertise and compassion under the simple motto – Together We Are Stronger. It has inspired millions to donate and then make sure the money kindly given gets quickly to those so badly affected.
The DEC provides a clear one stop shop that makes it easier for people to make sense of an overseas emergency they’re being asked to support and of course to donate to.
People also want to know that their money is going as quickly as possible to where there is the most acute need. The DEC helps answer this question by cutting complexity and limiting bureaucracy which we know can damage confidence in the humanitarian sector.
Working together saves duplication and supports our member agencies to co-ordinate and strengthen vital frontline networks with local agencies and leaders to make sure the aid we deliver is appropriate for the context and aligned with our host country’s immediate and longer-term priorities.
Back in the UK this approach also drives down fundraising costs and draws in much wide support from across the private and public sector. Here in Scotland, the DEC has only recently established a full-time presence, it has done so because it believes this approach will be strongly supported by the Scottish public.
Research tells us that Scots are, on average, that wee bit more generous when it comes to supporting charity. Scotland also has a proud history of internationalism.
There are already some inspirational networks of influence and action that are making a real difference to lives of so many around the globe and to those afflicted by natural disasters like the Indonesian tsunami.
We are delighted the Scottish government has already donated nearly £200,000 to the appeal through its Humanitarian Emergency Fund. With £2 million also pledged by the UK government this support gives the DEC a strong platform to build on.
In the coming days, with your money, our member charities and their local partners will closely support the Indonesian authorities to provide food, clean water, first aid and shelter, as well as helping survivors to cope with the trauma of the last few days.
More than 10,000 people were badly injured and with a number of hospitals destroyed or badly damaged, health care and medical supplies are vital as our ready-to-eat food rations. Most crucial of course is clean drinking water. Without water purification tablets and effective waste disposal the risk of a disease outbreak is ever present.
Many homes were submerged as earth turned into liquid mud, now thousands are stuck out the open or in makeshift shelters with a dread of further aftershocks. The pulverised infrastructure makes the relief effort even more painstaking. A total of 2,700 schools have been damaged; hospitals, bridges, places of worship and shopping centres have also collapsed. Power and communication lines are down and many roads are still impassable. While the tsunami swept in at lightening pace, it may yet kill slowly.
The rainy season is fast approaching, the elderly, children, people with disabilities, and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable.
Survivors also need protection and psycho-social support to help them cope with the trauma of losing their homes, their livelihoods and, in so many cases, family members and friends. As in previous emergencies, children, in particular, will need support to deal with the trauma they have experienced.
In the longer term, survivors will need help to rebuild their homes, communities and livelihoods. With your support the DEC and its partners here in the UK and in Indonesia are starting to make a real difference. We can do so much more if you can make a donation by web at dec.org.uk, by phone on 0370 60 60 900 or you can text SUPPORT to 70000 to donate £5.
Huw Owen is the external relations manager for the DEC in Scotland