Indonesia: MSF responds to earthquake and tsunami in Sulawesi

Wani Port, Tanatopea District, Donggala Regency

INDONESIA 2018 © Tommy Onsent/MSF

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has deployed a local team to Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, following a devastating earthquake and tsunami on September 28.

A team of Indonesian MSF colleagues composed of medical, water and sanitation, and logistics specialists, traveled to the affected areas to assess the situation. In collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MoH) team on the ground, MSF evaluated the needs in remote and rural areas, as the massive government response is concentrated mainly in the areas around the Palu City coastline and Petobo to the south. After initial constraints in transportation and access to various locations, our team managed to reach the affected areas, mainly around the sub-district of South Dolo, Sigi, and further north along the west coast of Donggala district, which is home to over 50,000 people.

“Until today [October 11], we still see patients with closed fractures due to the impact of the earthquake. We have been working closely with the Health Agency, and our mobile clinic team travels every day to provide access to health services for these patients,” said Dr. Rangi Wirantika, one of the doctors in the field.

INDONESIA © Sri Harjanti Wahyuningsih/MSF

Two local psychologists will soon join the team to provide mental health care to medical staff of the health centers and to those most affected by the disaster.

As services in Palu City are slowly resuming, the main priority now is to provide support to health centers in more remote areas to restart their primary health care activities and ensure the prevention of epidemics such as diarrhea, skin diseases, and measles. Restarting routine vaccination, data collection, and epidemiological surveillance for different diseases will also be part of the support provided by our team. Temporary structures for consultations and maternity services will also be installed, and access to sufficient clean water will be provided.

As part of the initial response, the MSF team, together with local communities, managed to access the medical stocks in a damaged clinic and transferred supplies to a neighboring house in order to restart medical consultations and provide medication.

"The affected communities have limited access to clean water, which is important to reduce the risk of possible epidemics. In some areas, people have to walk for up to two kilometers just to get water," said Timothius S.P. Benu, a water and sanitation specialist. The main goal for MSF will be to ensure that these communities have access to safe water, including by repairing or cleaning existing sources, such as hand pumps or wells, or setting up temporary solutions, such as water tanks and water treatment systems. 

While conducting these activities, the MSF team will continue to assess the needs in surrounding areas and respond accordingly.