Survivors of Indonesia tsunami struggle for clean water


Survivors are struggling to get enough clean water and are at risk of disease 12 days after a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia.

Members of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) are already providing clean water, hygiene equipment and medical help, but urgently need donations to reach more people with life-saving aid.

Water pipes were shattered when the 7.4-magnitude earthquake struck on 28 September and more than 67,000 homes were damaged or destroyed. Survivors are now dependent on water trucks, but the system is under severe strain because there are very few functioning water treatment centres in Palu and many families lack storage containers.

In a recent survey by DEC member CARE of 242 people in 29 affected areas, three-quarters of people (72 per cent) said they had no access to clean water and two-thirds (67 per cent) said they had nothing to store water in. The situation was even worse in smaller rural communities like Donggala where people are using dirty water from wells and there is a risk of conflicts flaring over the scarce supply.

There are very few toilets available to an estimated 70,000 people living in makeshift camps in rice fields and along roads in Palu. In one location, there are just three or four public toilets shared between 600 to 700 people, with people having no choice but to defecate in the open.

Water-borne diseases can spread quickly in these overcrowded conditions. Indonesian Red Cross medics report that almost a third of people arriving at health clinics are suffering fromdiarrhoea due to a lack of clean water.

The DEC is appealing for donations so that its members can ensure more people have clean water and sanitation equipment to prevent the spread of disease.

Bagus Setyawan, a water engineer for Oxfam in Palu, said: “There are long queues for water and people sometimes have to queue several times a day as they do not have suitable containers in which to store water. People are complaining about the lack of clean water and toilets. There is a desperate need for more water treatment facilities and for toilets to prevent the spread of disease.”

Ben Webster, Head of Global Emergencies at the British Red Cross, said: “The humanitarian need in Sulawesi is extensive, and a huge emergency response is under way to reach people, but it is a very challenging operation. One of the biggest needs now is access to clean water. Moving aid to the affected area is a huge logistical challenge due to damage to roads and fuel shortages, but more and more aid is arriving every day.”

Margarettha Siregar, Humanitarian and Emergencies Director at World Vision Indonesia, said: “With the help of other partners, World Vision has set up two water treatment plants and is looking to establish another one very soon. One of the biggest challenges is that pipes have burst and water reservoirs are contaminated. People are defecating in paper bags and in drainage waterways because of the absence of functioning toilets. This is increasing the risk of diseases such as cholera.”

To make a donation to the DEC Indonesia Tsunami Appeal, visit, call the 24-hour hotline on 0370 60 60 900, donate over the counter at any high street bank or post office, or send a cheque. To donate £5, text SUPPORT to 70000. Texts cost £5 and the whole £5 goes to the DEC INDONESIA TSUNAMI APPEAL. You must be 16 or over and please ask the bill payer's permission. For full terms and conditions and more information, go to

Stay up to date with developments in Indonesia, the emergency response and the fundraising efforts with the DEC on twitter: or on Facebook


To arrange an interview with a water and sanitation expert in Indonesia or the UK, please call 020 7387 0200 or 07930 999 014 (out of hours)

Download photos of DEC member agencies providing clean water here. 

Notes to editors:

  • Media enquiries please call 020 7387 0200 or 07930 999 014 (out of hours)
  • At times of very great need, the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) brings together a unique alliance of the UK’s leading aid agencies and broadcasters to maximise fundraising and quickly deliver effective emergency relief. The DEC brings together 14 major UK aid agencies: Action Against Hunger, ActionAid UK, Age International, British Red Cross, CAFOD, CARE International UK, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide UK, Islamic Relief Worldwide, Oxfam GB, Plan International UK, Save the Children UK, Tearfund and World Vision UK.
  • DEC member Oxfam is already distributing 1,000 containers for storing water, and installing ‘sky hydrants’ that can each filter enough water for 500 people per day. British Red Cross affiliate, Indonesian Red Cross, has a team of 500 volunteers on the ground who have distributed more than 17,000 litres of clean water so far from 22 water trucks and are treating around 300 people every day in three health clinics. World Vision has distributed over 8,500 litres of clean water in nine villages as well as hygiene packs containing soap, toothpaste, sanitary towels, nappies, oil and jerry cans.
  • UK Government match funding will go directly to the DEC. This funding has doubled the value of the public’s own donations up to £2 million and will ensure that charities working on the ground can reach even more people in need.
  • Funds raised will go towards humanitarian assistance in Indonesia, Sulawesi Island.
  • To make a postal donation make cheques payable to ‘DEC Indonesia Tsunami Appeal’ and mail to ‘PO Box 999, London, EC3A 3AA’.
  • Donations can be made at any high street bank and at Post Office counters.
    To donate £5 text SUPPORT to 70000. Texts cost £5 and the whole £5 goes to the DEC INDONESIA TSUNAMI APPEAL. You must be 16 or over and please ask the bill payer's permission. For full terms and conditions and more information go to
    Shelter - £30 could provide emergency shelter for one family
    Food - £50 could provide a family with food for a month 
    Hygiene - £100 could help build toilet and washing facilities for a family