Save the Children Provides Supplies to Crowds in Indonesia

Allison Zelkowitz, program manager

Padang, Indonesia

Allison's blog appears on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 blog page.

October 11, 2009, 11:26 PM

Allison Zelkowitzrszd10.12.doc Our distribution teams had a packed day – with just 14 people, we managed to provide nearly 1,500 families with hygiene kits and household items such as a small gas stove, cooking pots and utensils, mosquito nets and blankets.

Before I arrived in Padang eight days ago, I never knew how much planning, organizing and effort goes into providing needed supplies, or “NFIs,” as they’re called in humanitarian aid lingo. NFIs stands for non-food items.

Besides selecting, procuring, storing, shipping and transporting NFIs, distributing them requires an intensive process. First, Save the Children staff members meet with community leaders, assess the damage in each community, determine each community’s need and help community leaders develop a list of recipients — the people who most need them.

The actual distribution of NFIs usually begins the next day, and that’s when it can get tricky. The goal is to make sure the right goods get to the right families, while maintaining a secure environment for those who are receiving items, as well as for those who are distributing them. Crowds are sometimes unpredictable. 

This evening, as my team began our final distribution of the day, I worried a bit since the crowd seemed more eager than usual, pushing against the tape barrier and repeatedly venturing into the distribution area. But once the distribution process began, the tension somehow turned into festivity.

NFIsindonesia One community member stationed himself at the distribution area exit and blew a shrill whistle at anyone who tried to cross the line. He did this with such zeal and humor that every time he warned someone away, the crowd broke into laughter. Children raced around the perimeter, and neighbors teased each other as they hefted the large boxes away.

At one point, I looked around at the more than 100 faces around me, and realized how impressed I was with the resiliency of people here. About 90 percent of them – children, women and men – no longer have a home. And yet there they were, just one week later, smiling, joking and truly enjoying the moment. 

Learn more about Save the Children's emergency response in the Asia-Pacific region.