Save the Children’s Emergency Response Efforts at Work in Indonesia

Photography by Karin Beate Nosterud 

On December 26, 2004, an underwater earthquake off the coast of Indonesia triggered a tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people. The 100-foot-tall wall of water devastated the coastline of nine countries on the Indian Ocean and thousands of communities were left in ruins.

Save the Children was there, providing assistance to some 276,000 survivors—the largest relief effort in our history.1 

“What could have been a follow-up catastrophe to the tsunami in terms of malaria, typhoid, cholera or pneumonia, never happened because people gave generously for medical supplies, shelters and care for children and that made all the difference. Did it really save those children? The answer is yes,” said Charles MacCormack, president and CEO of Save the Children at the time.

An 8-year-old boy is surrounded by debris and destruction following the 2004 tsunami that struck Indonesia on December 26.

Today, our commitment to the children of Indonesia remains as strong as ever, as we urgently work to help protect vulnerable children and provide desperately needed relief to families in the wake of a 7.5 earthquake and tsunami that hit Indonesia’s Sulawesi on September 28.

The magnitude quake triggered a tsunami with waves reportedly up to three meters high near the island’s capital Palu. Thousands are feared dead, with a confirmed death toll at 1,400 and rising. Widespread destruction is evident and hundreds of thousands of children remain at grave risk. 

Power outages and landslides have blocked key roads and rendered the most impacted areas, including Dongala, out of reach for now. Other vital infrastructure including the airport in Palu have been badly damaged. Many children and families are sleeping outside because their homes were damaged and aftershocks continue.

While we still don’t know the full scale of the crisis yet, we do know it is immense and have grave fears for the families in this area.

“Our team is responding by providing emergency supplies and hygiene kits to families affected by the quake,” said Save the Children’s Program Implementation Director, Tom Howells from Jakarta. “We are also planning to set up Child Friendly Spaces in shelters for those who have lost their homes, to ensure families and children are safe and have the supplies they need, like diapers and cribs.”2 

As Save the Children continues to respond with emergency assistance, we need your help now more than ever. Your generous gift can help protect vulnerable children and provide desperately needed relief to families.

To learn more about Save the Children’s response and how you can help, please visit our website.



1. Results for Children in 2005 

2. Concerns for Children After Powerful Magnitude 7.5 Earthquake and Tsunami Hits Indonesia’s Sulawesi 

A Teacher in the Making

Nasir Sarwary

School Health & Nutrition Assistant

Save the Children in Afghanistan

October 1, 2018

Hedayatullah, 17 years old, is a student in eleventh grade in a village situated in the beautiful mountainous range of Gorziwan District in Afghanistan. He lives in a small house made of packed mud, with his parents and five siblings. His father is a teacher in his school and his mother cares for their home and the children. His life is similar to that of any other boy his age in his community.

Before Save the Children started supporting their community, like many other children in their village Hedayatullah and his siblings were often sick and had to miss school. Medicine was costly for their family, especially with so many children to care for and such frequent illness. Attendance rates in the schools were low as children stayed home due to cough, fever and diarrhea.

In June 2006, sponsorship started health and nutrition programs in Gorziwan to help address these challenges. Save the Children found most people, especially mothers and children during their time at home, were not aware of how to keep up with their personal and environmental hygiene, and how simple steps like always using soap when washing hands could help keep their whole family healthy. In this area of Afghanistan, 90% of parents are illiterate and likewise their knowledge about health, nutrition and hygiene was very low.

Hedayatullah shared, “Before Save the Children programs, we did not wash our hands before taking meals and after using the bathroom.” He explained that they weren’t aware that good personal hygiene could help keep them from getting sick. “I didn’t even cut my nails regularly,” he remembered.

Hedayatullah leading a hand washing lesson for Hekmatullah and Samiullah.

Since he was 10 years old, Hedayatullah has been an active member of a Save the Children supported child-focused health education group. Through these groups, children learn how to adopt healthy practices, as well as promote and spread those healthy practices amongst their family and the community.

By being truly child-focused, the health groups utilize the way children think, learn and interact with each other to not only help children help themselves stay healthy, but also to use children as a resource to create change in their communities. This is not only a cost effective way to transfer knowledge, but also deeply involves community members and children themselves in shifting behaviors and norms, making those changes more sustainable. Save the Children supports by training group leaders and facilitators on problem solving, teaching methods and discussion techniques, and providing teaching materials for them to use, such as handout activities, storybooks with related lessons and posters.

While he happily learned in these groups from the age of 10, now as a teenager he volunteers as the group’s leader.

In this role, Hedayatullah spreads health messages to a group of friends and younger students in a casual way, using their local language and personal relationships to make learning fun and relate to each other during the lesson. The boys use games, songs, storytelling and role-play to make sure everyone feels involved.

Hedayatullah and his child-focused health group send their thanks to sponsors.

Since they are learning with friends, experiences and ideas are shared more freely. The environment feels more intimate and relatable than it would if an adult was leading the discussion.

As a participant in these programs for almost a decade, Hedayatullah has seen for himself how today more children practice good health and hygiene, for example regularly washing their hands with soap or boiling water instead of drinking straight from the river.

His experience leading the child-focused health group has even inspired Hedayatullah’s future aspirations. Since his role as group leader is similar to that of a teacher, he hopes to become a teacher one day to be able to work with students as a profession.

He concludes with a thoughtful smile, “I feel proud when all the group follows me and want to learn from me.”

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