MSF offers relief items and psychosocial support to earthquake survivors in Sumatra

Following the earthquakes that have hit the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the Emergency Team of MSF has distributed relief items and is continuing to further assess the needs. With strong aftershocks continuing to shake the region on Friday, psychosocial support to the survivors is one of the main priorities.

A team of 11 MSF workers from the Emergency Team of MSF is offering relief assistance to the people affected by the earthquakes on Sumatra Island, Indonesia. Each of the two teams is made up of medical, paramedical and logistical personnel, most of them Indonesian. They will be joined soon by an experienced nurse from MSF's Emergency Unit leaving Europe on Friday evening.

Two major earthquakes hit the region. The first earthquake, measuring 8.2 on the Richter scale, was Wednesday, about 80 miles off the coast, southwest of Bengkulu. The second, measuring 7.8, was Thursday and was centred 115 miles southeast of Padang. According to Indonesian officials, 14 people have been killed and 56 injured across the region since Wednesday's quake.

On Thursday, an MSF team arrived in Padang, the provincial capital of  West Sumatra.. They visited the local hospitals, which were not too damaged. In Bengkulu, a city further southeast and the capital of Bengkulu province, the hospital was significantly damaged. All patients were being treated in tents. A second team arrived later on Thursday from Jakarta by chartered plane, carrying seven tons of relief supplies. The freight contained a surgical kit for 25 operations, wound dressing materials, five large tents and 1,000 blankets.

The MSF team has distributed plastic sheeting, blankets, hygiene kits (towels, basin, soap,...) to around 300 families (1.500 people) and will continue the distribution in the following days to more than 4,000 families in Bengkulu, Muko-Muko, and Sumatra-Barat. This material will arrive by boat from Jakarta.

MSF also explored the situation along the coast between Padang and Bengkulu. "The team identified about 300 families whose houses had been destroyed and who need assistance," says Martin De Smet, Head of MSF's Emergency Unit. "They need food, clothes, and family tents. In the region of Bengkulu, MSF is also continuing the evaluation of the damage and of the medical needs among the population."

MSF is also preparing to set up water bladders to deliver clean water to the affected people.

A series of strong aftershocks triggered new panic among thousands of homeless living in makeshift shelters or tents. "There have been more than 40 aftershocks since the huge earthquake struck two days ago, people not only face the traumatizing experience of the quake, but also the stress that other earthquake will strike," explains De Smet. "That's why the MSF team also includes a psychologist. This person will work with local colleagues in order to provide mental health support to the people. With the distribution of relief items and water-and-hygiene activities, mental health is now one of our main priorities."