News | Features  
 

02.05.05 - SURF AID WORKS ON AMIDST SEISMIC UPHEAVAL
With regular earth tremors, two volcanoes smouldering nearby, and
cracks appearing in their Padang offices, the Surf Aid International
crew are working on tirelessly through the seismic upheaval rocking
Sumatra, Indonesia.

Since the Nias quake on March 28, measuring 8.4 on the richter scale,
Padang and the Mentawai Islands have been rocked by a series of tremors throughout April, one volcano in West Sumatra has erupted, and another is predicted to erupt. It is feared to be only a matter of time before another major quake hits the region.

“Nias is a total mess, the economy has collapsed, schools have been
ruined and are shut, people have no money and little food and 500,000 of them are living outside where disease outbreaks have begun,” says Surf Aid founder, Dr Dave Jenkins, from Padang.

“Many in our teams are exhausted and at risk of burnout so I live in
hope that the earth stays still long enough for their recovery. They
have faced many difficult and emotional scenarios such as working with small traumatised children with multiple fractures lying in pain for 10 days in the remote villages before we could evacuate them.”

On top of its rapid response to the tragic Boxing Day tsunami, SAI has
been kept busy providing aid to those affected by the Nias earthquake - which claimed an estimated 3000 lives. There are currently 20 SAI staff in the field making up three combined Surf Aid/AusAID medical and engineering assessment teams.

In the space of three weeks since the quake, SAI teams have handled 1500 medical consultations in Nias and Simeuleu, an average of 75 serious medical cases a day - mainly fractures, lacerations and wound infections. They have performed 40 medical evacuations, delivered 200 tonnes of emergency supplies (mainly food, water and temporary shelter), distributed over 10,000 mosquito nets and 10,500 immunisations.

And SAI continues to earn praise from the highest quarters for its
humanitarian work. The World Health Organisation, the United Nations, the US Navy, AusAid, NZ Aid, the NZ prime minister Helen Clarke, heads of the global surfing industry and local Indonesian authorities have all joined in the commendation of Surf Aid’s work.

“From the first day it seems that they were out in the field going around the smaller islands identifying and moving the seriously injured, days before the rest of the organisations in Medan were able to operate,” says the UN’s head of emergency field office, Morgan Morris. “Surf Aid were also a valuable source of information because of their previous work in the area even before the Tsunami, and it was this information that proved invaluable to the search and rescue operations by being able to help identify landing sites for the helicopters and sites where beach craft could be used. I think it is no exaggeration to say that the Surf Aid teams saved many lives that could have been lost with out their prompt action.”   

“I'm incredibly impressed by Surf Aid’s efforts post Tsunami and post
the recent earthquake in Nias. The organisation’s approach to
responding to both disasters was heartfelt and creative,” says Lisa
Roberts, Emergency Response Co-ordinator for the Australian Indonesia Partnership for Reconstruction and Development. “Surf Aid personnel in the field have good country understanding and are on the whole culturally sensitive which earns them local trust and contributes to their operational effectiveness. The close partnership between AusAID and Surf Aid has resulted in two highly effective emergency response operations in Aceh and North Sumatra paving the way for future collaboration.”

"Surf Aid is running an extraordinary team effort bringing together a
lot of very special, dedicated people who have their heart and soul in
this major humanitarian effort.  People can be assured that their
donations are being well spent in a very effective manner,” says Kirk
Willcox, Quiksilver’s international media manager, who spent a month
working in Surf Aid’s Padang office after the Tsunami.

“I can only commend Surf Aid as a very dedicated and professional
entity within the INGO (Independent Non-Government Organisations)
community in Sumatra,” says Daniel Sajet, head of Air Operations of the United Nations Joint Logistic Centre, from Sumatra. The UN has also requested permission to reproduce Surf Aid documents as vital
reference material for all their humanitarian staff working in Indonesia.

“I can say personally that you have impacted on our mission here on the Mercy to the people of Nias with your help,” US navy rear admiral Jeremy M. Hendrickson, on the USNS Mercy, reported in an e-mail to Surf Aid. “We were unable to make contact with anyone on the island until you guys.  You have been the source of 90% of the information we have used to brief personnel on board the USNS Mercy.” Admiral Hendrickson was so impressed by Surf Aid’s work he has asked to volunteer with the organisation during his time off.

The devastating events in Indonesia in recent months have highlighted how uniquely well-placed Surf Aid is to respond to these emergencies in remote and inaccessible areas. The surf charter industry’s exploration of these regions for surf has now delivered a humanitarian spin-off, with the capability to reach remote villages inaccessible to other land-based Aid agencies.

"By working with the local surf charter industry, Surf Aid has been able to quickly reach the areas affected by the earthquakes and tsunamis - they were among the first aid workers on the ground in the most recent earthquake,” says Kirk Willcox. "The boat captains have a unique knowledge of the region through their history of exploring for surf, and they know how to safely get the medical teams, translators, logisticians and communications personnel, as well as medical and relief supplies, into remote villages, many of which have no access except via sea due to roads and bridges being destroyed.”

The surf charter boat Asia is currently providing a command post in Gunung Sitoli, and accommodating humanitarian staff. The charter boat Nauli has recently sailed to Sibolga for refuelling, maintenance and resupply.

Surf Aid/Aus Aid rescue teams have been scouring remote areas by helicopter, motorbike and speedboat searching for casualties of the Nias quake. Surf Aid’s initial three month response to the quake has been focussed on disease prevention and establishing the framework for ongoing community based health programmes. Importantly, good relations have been formed with village leaders and local authorities to help establish these longer term health initiatives.

"I am immensely proud of everyone who has helped,” says Dr Dave. “It is clear to me and now to many others that we have built a team capable of the extraordinary, by way of a focussed and passionate commitment to the job at hand.”

With its work now spread over Simeulue, and the Banyak, Nias, Telos and Mentawai Islands, SAI is servicing a population of some 800,000 people, spanning 500 nautical miles.

These efforts have been made possible by numerous individual contributions, local surf charter operators, as well as major sponsors Quiksilver and Billabong, plus funding from AusAid and NZAid. “We could not have come close to the extensive and successful response that we have delivered without the key support of our friends in the surf industry both local and global and I am very grateful for their support,” says Dave.  “We still have much to do to help these communities recover in what will be a long and difficult journey. I would ask all our partners and donors to continue and extend their assistance to this region.”

Further funding is needed to facilitate SAI’s planned five year programme, and create a lasting legacy of good health and improved conditions in the region. “Surf Aid will be remembered and respected by the people of these islands and the many UN and NGO agencies who worked with them, for many years to come,” says the UN’s Morgan Morris.

For more information or to make a donation visit: SurfAid