A man and woman stand in the entrance to a house
A couple stand in the doorway of their newly built house

First it’s about
saving lives,
then it’s about
rebuilding them

First it’s about saving lives,
then it’s about rebuilding them

Eko and Uchi stand in the doorway of their house in Donggala, Indonesia, which they built using a cash grant from Save the Children using DEC funds. Image: Hariandi Hafid/DEC

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In the wake of the 2018 tsunami in Indonesia and Cyclone Idai in March 2019, DEC charities were some of the first to respond, providing life-saving assistance such as shelter, food, water and medical care. As a crisis unfolds, DEC charities act fast to save lives. The DEC model means we can release money to help them scale up quickly and efficiently.

But that is just the beginning. After saving lives, we have to help rebuild them. Restoring livelihoods, providing water supplies, rebuilding homes, getting children back into education and helping people move forward from the trauma that they’ve experienced. Here are just a few examples of how your generous donations have enabled DEC charities to assist people in a time of great need, and the difference it made to their lives.

Ilda sits outside the house that she rebuilt using tools and materials provided by Age International using DEC funds, in Sofala province, Mozambique. Image: Peter Caton/DEC

Ilda, Mozambique

After Cyclone Idai hit Mozambique, Ilda, 75, initially couldn’t find her house. “A tree that was close to it had fallen on top of the house and destroyed it so that I couldn’t even recognise it,” she says. “There was still a place where I could get inside like a mouse hiding, and that’s where I slept.”

Through her neighbours, Ilda heard that DEC member Age International was offering help to elderly people. Ilda received a shelter kit including materials and tools to rebuild her house as well as household items and clothes. “The tools that I received were very helpful because I didn’t have any materials to rebuild my house,” explains Ilda. “I would say my life has changed from what it could have been.”

Your generosity enabled DEC charities to provide 15,000 families with emergency shelter materials.

Hijrah puts salt from her salt farm into bags to sell in Palu, Indonesia. She received help from Oxfam to help restart her business using DEC funds. Image: Hariandi Hafid/DEC

Hijrah, Indonesia

“My husband almost got killed by the tsunami,” says Hijrah, 48, “but he survived. He was harvesting at the time, so he saw the tsunami in front of his eyes. Luckily my children are also safe.”

Like many in her community, Hijrah and her husband have a salt farm close to the shore where the tsunami came in. The trauma of the tsunami meant many of them were scared to go back to the shore to restart their businesses. Oxfam provided materials to help people start salt farming again. Hijrah says that this helped motivate people to restart their businesses and move on with their lives. “The economy is improving. Because of this help, it improves faster.” Hirjah says. “The families of the victims of the disaster are also starting to work. We cannot keep dwelling on the past.”

DEC funds helped 13,000 people like Hijrah restart their livelihoods in the first six months following the Indonesia earthquake and tsunami.

Joelma, 11, (right) and her sister Elsinha*, 4, at a World Vision children's centre funded by the DEC near Buzi, Mozambique. Image: Peter Caton/DEC

Joelma*, Mozambique

The violent weather and immense destruction caused by Cyclone Idai left many children traumatised. “I was scared because the roof was shaking so hard and then it went flying off,” says Joelma, 11, who was at her mother’s stall when the cyclone hit. The roof had also been torn off her family’s house, leaving all their belongings soaked in water, and they struggled to find food and clean water.

Many children like Joelma relived the traumatic experience of the cyclone in nightmares. “I was scared at night because I thought Cyclone Idai would come back and I would have nightmares about it coming again,” explained Joelma. However, the work of volunteers at a World Vision children’s centre has helped children overcome their fear. “When I started coming to the centre the ‘aunties’ made us dance and sing and they explained what the cyclone was and so we weren't scared anymore”, says Joelma. “Now, I don’t feel scared when I hear a strong wind.”

Thanks to your help, after Cyclone Idai 127 safe spaces were created to support people in recovering from the trauma of the disaster.

Ibrahim (left) and his family sit in their partially constructed house which they are building using a cash grant from Save the Children using DEC funds. Image: Hariandi Hafid/DEC

Ibrahim, Indonesia

When the earth began to shake and buildings started to fall, Ibrahim, 51, and his family managed to escape to higher ground. Like many other people, they returned to find that their home had been destroyed, so DEC member Save the Children gave them material for a temporary shelter. However, living in the temporary shelter was hard. “In rainy season, we were flooded by about 20cm of rain,” says Ibrahim. “But we didn’t have anywhere else to go. Thank God, help has come.” Save the Children were able to provide families with a cash grant which Ibrahim is using to rebuild his family’s house.

“We started to build this house one month ago,” he says, choking back tears. “I’m completely happy right now. I’ve been wishing for a house for a long time. We are very grateful. I’m very proud that I am building this house.”

In the first six months following the Indonesia earthquake and tsunami, your generous donations provided cash grants for 10,000 families like Ibrahim’s, and emergency shelter for 59,000 people.

Joaquin, 55, received seeds to restart livelihood

Joaquin checks on his newly germinated crops in Sofala province, Mozambique. World Vision distributed drought and pest-resistant seeds using DEC funds to help farmers start growing again. Image: Peter Caton/DEC

Joaquin, Mozambique

The first thing Joaquin, 55, did once Cyclone Idai had passed was to go see what had happened to his farm. “Once I got there I saw the devastation. I realised that I had absolutely nothing left. All my harvest was spoiled. The water was covering everything,” he recalls. His whole family worked on the farm and its destruction left them without work, income or food. “The general feeling was of hopelessness,” says Joaquin.

To make matters worse, the family couldn’t get their remaining seeds to grow, until DEC member World Vision distributed drought- and pest-resistant seeds. Now, Joaquin tends to fields of sprouting maize. “I feel very happy because without these seeds we would have had many problems,” he says. “The land would have been empty because we had no seeds, and our bellies would have been empty because we wouldn’t have had food. But these donated seeds have helped so much.”

Helping people start growing crops again has been a major focus for DEC charities since the cyclone, and DEC funds have helped 220,000 people replant.

Mesar (left) and his friend Jokson work on maintaining the water system installed in their village in Donggala, Indonesia by Oxfam using DEC funds. Image: Hariandi Hafid/DEC

Mesar, Indonesia

Mesar, 43, his wife and their seven children survived the earthquake in Indonesia, but afterwards found themselves with nothing to eat. DEC member Oxfam helped their community by providing food, cleaning kits, blankets and a water supply. The community helped to build the water supply system and received training on how to maintain it themselves. “We are very grateful that Oxfam has helped us with this water supply,” says Mesar, “because in the early days [after the earthquake] we had difficulty getting water.”

Many people also received trauma counselling. “The people who live here are still feeling traumatized by the terrible disaster that happened last year. Even the slightest movement can surprise me. That’s why the trauma counselling is really needed, for children and adults.”

In the first six months after the earthquake, DEC funds provided safe drinking water to 44,000 people like Mesar.

If you would like to stay in touch with the DEC and hear more about how your generous donations have helped people rebuild their lives after a crisis, please sign up to our mailing list below, or follow us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Interviews by Khairunnisa Zainal Abidin and Susan Martinez.

*Children’s names have been changed to protect their identities