Rebuilding following the Java quake: where to begin?

Samiono lost his home and mother in the Java earthquake. With his face bruised and bandaged, he stands amidst the wreckage of his home and wonders how he can rebuild his home and his live. WFP spokesperson Barry Came reports.

Samiono, face bruised and bandaged, stands amidst the wreckage of his home and points to a pile of rubble on the far side of a low wall of shattered bricks.

“That was my mother’s room,” he says. “She was asleep when the house came down. By the time we could dig her out, she was dead.”


We have nothing left, not even a pot

Sugeng Rahayu

He pauses to stare at the rubble for a long moment, then adds in a quiet voice. “She was 90 years old.”


Despite his mother’s unhappy demise, Samiono, who like many Indonesians uses only one name, considers himself to be fortunate. “

At least everyone else survived,” says the 42-year-old, as he runs through the list of the other six members of his family who had also been asleep when the earthquake shook their village early Saturday morning on May 27.


Most of Samiono’s neighbours in Muruh, a tiny community set among green fields of young rice 20 kilometres east of Yogjakarta, were also sleeping when the earthquake struck. And almost all suffered a similar fate.

Samiono with a bandage on his head
Samiono was lucky to escape with his life


The earthquake that rocked the Yogjakarta area of southern Java hit Muruh particularly hard.

Of the village’s 104 houses, 99 were completely destroyed. Four more were partially damaged. Only one building remained standing.

“It really levelled this place,” explains Galen Carey, Indonesia Country Director of the US-headquartered NGO, World Relief.

“When we took a look, it seemed pretty clear that the people around here were going to need a lot of help.”

Cooperating partners

World Relief, which has programmes in tsunami-ravaged Aceh, soon decided to divert staff and resources from Sumatra to set up a base of operations in Muruh.

Not long after, the NGO signed on as a cooperating partner with WFP, agreeing to deliver the agency’s food aid to the residents of Muruh and eight surrounding communities.

World Relief is one of WFP’s seven cooperating partners currently at work in the earthquake zones of Central Java province.

Two are Indonesian—Majelis Mujahidin and Bina Masyarakat Peduli—and five are international—World Relief, International Medical Corps, Catholic World Service, Relief International and International Relief and Development Indonesia.


To date, WFP and its Cooperating Partners have delivered more than 200 metric tons of food, primarily micronutrient-enriched noodles and biscuits, to some 182,000 beneficiaries.

WFP’s relief efforts, devised in consultation with local and national Indonesian authorities, are focused on 12 of the most severely affected areas in the province.

In response to a specific request from the Yogjakarta Governor, His Royal Highness Sri Sultan Hamengkubowono, WFP is also in the process of working out the details of a programme to provide food aid to long-term hospital patients.

The agency is planning to reach a total of 120,000 beneficiaries over the next two months.

Total cost of the entire programme for the next six months is estimated at US$ 5.5 million.


WFP has been able to offer a measure of assistance, delivering so far nearly 5 tons of high-energy biscuits and 3.5 tons for distribution in and around Muruh, but much remains to be done

In the meantime, however, it is people like Samiono, his family and his neighbours in the village of Muruh who are in need of a helping hand.

Surkini rummaging through rubble
Samiono and his son assess the task of rebuilding


Top of Samiono’s list of requirements is money and materials so that he can rebuild his ruined home. “I don’t need much,” he says, “a little bit of money and some wood and bricks, maybe a few roof tiles. I can do most of the work myself, with some help from my neighbours.”

“The food is also a help,” adds Samiono’s wife, Sukirni, who is rummaging nearby through the rubble, salvaging what she can from the detritus of what was once her home.

“I have mouths to feed,” she says, gesturing toward her daughter Novi, 14, who stands observing the scene, tenderly fingering cuts and bruises on a disfigured cheek.

Where to begin?

Just down the road, two of Samiono’s neighbours disconsolately stare at the remains of their home. “We really do not know where to begin,” says Markus Wiyono, as stretches a comforting arm around the shoulder of his wife, Sugeng Rahayu.

“Everything’s gone” Sugeng sighs. “We have nothing left, not even a pot”.

Tens of thousands are caught in a similar plight. According to official Indonesian figures, 83,683 homes were completely destroyed in last month’s earthquake. An additional 314,865 houses were damaged.

Estimates of the homeless range from 200,000 to as many as 650,000, meaning there could be well over half a million people needing help to rebuild their shattered lives.