Disasters bring out the best and worst in us. Greed and fear, generosity and courage are painted on the same canvas of history. A few years ago, Americans in New Orleans and other Gulf states were ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. Worse, the number of people who suffered needlessly because of our disjointed response and underestimation of the catastrophic impact on all the elements of society (especially the poor), became the main focus of the news.
Recently an earthquake destroyed thousands of homes and killed nearly a thousand people in West Sumatra. The Indonesian government and Indonesian Red Cross combined and coordinated swift responses to the disaster.
One of the first steps they took began even as rescue efforts continued. Food, medicine and temporary large tents which served as hospitals, and canteens arrived within hours and days. In the first 48 hours 1,500 family tents, 3,000 tarpaulins, 5,000 blankets and sleeping mats as well as 1000 hygiene kits were dispatched to the affected areas (1).
The Red Cross learned from an earthquake that struck Central Java in 2006. The Javanese quickly erected 12,500 shelters out of bamboo, at a cost of approximately US $170 per unit. These shelters have a life of up to five years (2). Dependability, strength, and ease of construction sold both governments on the usefulness of bamboo.
The Red Cross has crews specially trained to build these bamboo shelters, and they plan to build an initial 3000 transitional bamboo shelters. The shelter kits will comprise corrugated iron (CGI) roofing sheets, a bamboo frame, woven bamboo wall matting, cement and salvaged bricks. The durable CGI – rather than plastic- sheets were requested by the government to contribute to post-emergency reconstruction.
The people most impacted are very self-sufficient, possessing a wide range of skills. Because of this IOM is also planning to distribute 3,500 individual tool kits – one for each family of five – and 700 community demolition and reconstruction toolkits in the two districts, which were among the worst affected by the quake.
Enlisting the victims makes them active shareholders in their futures. What a great concept.
Perhaps in the rebuilding, governments can further empower their citizens by building a new economic opportunity with bamboo as a primary crop. Bamboo products, from bamboo clothes to bamboo sheets, are in huge demand making it a prime opportunity for a ravaged area looking to rebuild.
1. Amril Amarullah. West Sumatra Earthquake. Jum’at, 23 Oktober 2009, 13:12 WIB.
2. Posted by Bob McKerrow.