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The crisis and the response
Indonesia suffered two devastating earthquakes (in West Java and West Sumatra) in September 2009, triggering drastically different responses.
As the government did not welcome assistance for West Java, feeling that it could handle the response on its own, the international response was extremely limited and needs still remain.
Subsequently recognising its failure to provide adequate support in West Java, the government “welcomed” aid following the West Sumatra disaster.
The multiplicity of organisations arriving in West Sumatra created coordination challenges. OCHA coordinated international organisations while the Indonesian government worked with national counterparts. Communication with the government was often imperfect.
Coordination shortcomings led to duplication of effort and tensions. Over-interviewed survivors were forced to repeatedly answer the same questions.
Lack of standardised procedures and methodologies resulted in inconsistent damage assessments and problems sharing data between response actors.
Donors were generally criticised for not doing enough to integrate disaster risk reduction, prevention and preparedness into emergency assistance and for not funding organisational capacity for contingency planning and preparedness.
Failure to integrate a DRR approach into relief efforts reduced prospects for long-term sustainable recovery.
International media frenzy provoked a “contest for profile” among donors and led to only the most visible early recovery needs being met.
Key challenges and areas for improvement
Donors must avoid overlapping funding and do more to coordinate and align their responses.
Standardised needs-assessment processes should be implemented for all actors to reference and use.
More efforts should be made to bolster protection of disaster-affected people, using a gender-based approach to help the most vulnerable.
Donors should encourage the integration of local capacity building into humanitarian aid.