Preparing Indonesia For Disasters

Peder Damm has been there, done it all, and his behavior and body language underlines that fact. It simply feels good to be around one of the most respected “soldiers” of the Danish Red Cross, who has been the leader of the Danish Red Cross organisation in Indonesia almost since he came to Indonesia as a part of the rescue team in connection with the Indonesian part of the Tsunami disaster i late December 2004.
At that time, the Danish Red Cross had been in Indonesia with a disaster preparedness program since 2003. It was a programme which had been tested in the Philippines years before. It was based on the simple fact, that it is much cheaper to prepare for disasters and take preventive measures, than do what we did in Aceh, in Yougdakarta and thousands of other places, where they were not perpapred when disasters struck with terrible consequences.
”It is almost ten time more expensive to clean up than prepare in advance for possible disasters and at the same time it gives less the suffering and shortens the abruption in the societies. It’s a very good investments to improve the conditions and the awareness about disasters in the local villages”, the experienced Dane assures me in his office in Jakarta.

Peder Damm is eductated in logistics from the Danish Army.
”Logistics is about getting things from point A to point B at the fastest possible time. Whether it is small important pills, or huge trucks is just the mater of the size. In the beginning, Danish Red Cross hired me from the Army every time they needed logistic assistance. But it was not a convenient solution, so when it was possible, I said goodbye to the Army, and became a regular staff member of the Danish Red Cross. Its almost 20 years ago”.
Peder Damm has been involved in so many disasters, that’s he gave up counting long time a go, but when he arrived in Aceh after the Tsunami, his life took a more permanent shape.
”The disaster preperdness” programme had all ready been running one year, and during the next years it was quite overshadowed by to huge disasters. The Tsunami in Banda Aceh at the top of the Sumatra island, and the huge Earthquake in District of Bantul-Jogjakarta and Klaten-Central Java,” says Peder Damm, who took over as a leader ofthe Disaster Preparedness Programme. At he is still at the helm for the programme.
”Indonesia is the most disaster prone country in the world. Three disasters hit the country as an average every single day. We go from earthquake to floods, to active volcano’s or forest fire and back again. Each and every day people are killed, harvest drowned by floods, and houses and villages turned into ruins,” Peder Damm explains.
”We cant avoid the disasters, by we can do many things to prepare the population, so the suffering and expenses are far less,” Peder Damm says.
He also explains that the project is about giving the Indonesian Red Cross a wider knowledge and experience in disaster preparedness.

One of Peder Damms key points is, that disasters almost always hit the poorest people hardest. The Tsunami did not discriminate, but for example floods and earthquakes have a preference to people who live in simple houses, or maybe they own or work at flood prone areas.
”If a flood hit a village and damage the harvest, then there will be lesser money and lesser food to the families. The fathers may be forced to leave the village to look for work, and the children could be forced to stop going to school, because the lack of money to payment for school and books”, the Dane explains.
At the same time the drinking water can be polluter because latrines and wells has been flooded too. That can give diareah and other kind of illness
Despite the small poor societies are fragile, they are at the same time the projects most important resource’s. Its the locals who are born experts in local conditions.
”Thats why its so important to involve the locals, before new projects are developed”, Peder Damm says.
”The cornerstone in the disaster preparedness program is local involvement. And its not only about giving good advices. The local population shall deliver at least 50% of the financial support. If they don’t have cash, then they can work, they can provide materials to the projects.”
While the disasters and the project are working hand in hand, the awareness about the fantastic work the Danish Red Cross are doing together with their local partner is growing in Denmark.
The world famous rock festival ”Roskilde Festval” awarded 250.000 DKK to a Disaster Preparedness project i Sulawesi.

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