Mental health becomes focus in Army’s Indonesia quake response

After a 7.5 magnitude earthquake hit Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi region Sept. 28, The Salvation Army immediately reacted, providing food, water, shelter and healthcare services for those physically hurt during the quakes. Now that three weeks have passed, efforts have turned to focus on the mental health challenges brought on by the traumatic events surrounding the earthquake.

So far, trauma healing sessions held by the Army and a local university have been attended by 1,200 people, at 15 different locations. To meet demand, The Salvation Army’s Indonesia Territory is training 20 officers in trauma counseling, and these reinforcements will be sent to Central Sulawesi to support the team already on the ground.

With the confirmed death toll standing at 2,113, at least another 1,309 people have been unaccounted for. Nearly a quarter of a million people have been displaced from their homes, with many still living in temporary displacement camps.

Search and rescue operations have ended, but the emergency response phase has been extended. The Salvation Army has served more than 12,300 hot meals, as well as provided emergency food parcels, drinking water and tarps.

“The needs are huge and The Salvation Army in Indonesia, supported by experienced International Emergency Services personnel on the ground, is now making plans of scaling up the operation,” said The Salvation Army’s Indonesia Project Officer Envoy Kevin Sandford. “We are humbled by the generosity we have seen and experienced from people from all around the world.”

The Palu-based Indonesia team has been bolstered by International Emergency Services Deputy Coordinator Damaris Frick and Project Officer Major Drew Ruthven. Both are liaising regularly with Indonesian government disaster response officials, and participating in regular “hub” meetings to coordinate the activities of the aid agencies and other non-governmental organizations involved in the large-scale response to the disaster.

The Salvation Army’s Woodward Hospital treated 789 patients on-site in the two weeks following the initial earthquake, despite having to evacuate the premises twice due to structural damage, which has since been repaired.

Because road infrastructure damage adversely affected access to hospital facilities, Salvation Army medics took mobile clinics to 12 locations, ensuring 950 individuals received professional healthcare services.

The Salvation Army-run Cakrawala Radio has been sharing news and information about the disaster response to remote settlements in Sulawesi, many of which are still not yet accessible.

The leader of The Salvation Army in Indonesia, Commissioner Peter Walker, returned early from booked holiday in order to share words of encouragement on the radio station, to bring words of comfort to community members who have been so badly affected by the disaster and to encourage Salvation Army team members.

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