Central Sulawesi Quake: The Year after; Hellter Shelter

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  • An aerial view of a devastated region nearly one year after an earthquake and tsunami, taken over Sulawesi, Indonesia, sometime in September 2019 by a drone and obtained from social media. UN OCHA Asia-Pacific via REUTERS

    An aerial view of a devastated region nearly one year after an earthquake and tsunami, taken over Sulawesi, Indonesia, sometime in September 2019 by a drone and obtained from social media. UN OCHA Asia-Pacific via REUTERS

    TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - On this day last year, Lingu (earthquake), Bomba Talu (tsunami), and liquefaction rocked Central Sulawesi, killing 4,845 people and displacing tens of thousands. Nine Palu journalists, members of the "Disaster Management Accountability" fellowship--a program held by Tempo Institute, International Media Support (Denmark), and AJI Palu, decided to tell the survivors' stories. They investigated projects suspected to be manifested with problems, as well as cover Palu's dream of having a tsunami wall. Here are their three coverages.

    There are 8,388 people living in 699 units of temporary housing compounds in Palu, Donggala, Sigi, and Parigi Moutong. To some of the survivors, it's like living in hell.

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    Sixteen-year-old Bunga is becoming a young woman, as seen from parts of her developing body; attracting the opposite sex. But she did not realize this—not until an incident one afternoon. "I was taking a shower," she told Kompas.com,in mid-August2019.

    Bunga suspected nothing when going to the shower stalls, she said, as there were no one near the area. Without hesitating, she undressed and started to clean herself up.

    But to her surprise, there was a hand holding a small mirror showing from the gap between the door and the floor. Someone is peeping.

    "I immediately screamed and stormed out of the bathroom. I was scared," Bunga said. She later found out that the voyeur was her own neighbor living in the same temporary housing.

    Bunga, not her actual name, is not the only person who was harassed in the bathrooms of Palu's temporary disaster housing. Dewi Rana Amir, director of LIBU Perempuan, said that from January to July 2019 she received 14c reports of abuse against women and children. Half of them were about Peeping Toms. 

    Some of the voyeurs used technology to commit their shameful act. They put a hole on the bathroom wall and they record the victims with their smartphones, like what happened in a shelter in Palu. "The victim is a young mom. A high-schooler videotaped her in the shower," LIBU coordinator Maya Shafira said.

    Under the Shadows of Violence

    The government established temporary shelters for survivors of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated a number of areas in Central Sulawesi Province on September 28 last year. To date, in Palu City, Sigi Regency, Donggala Regency, and Parigi Moutong Regency, the government has built no less than 699 units of shelters known as huntara—short for hunian sementara or temporary houses.

    Each Huntara unit comprises of several blocks, each with a number of cabins—usually 12—of around 3x4 meters; one cabin per household. There are currently 8,808 families of around 33,092 people living there.

    The survivors will live in the huntara until the huntap—short for hunian tetap or permanent housing—is built. The huntap will be their new homes, replacing the houses they lost in the disaster. 

    It is estimated that the survivors will stay in the shelter for two years, even longer. But Vindy (40) almost did not even make it a year. A fight about a lamp lead to her being beaten to a pulp by her husband through religious marriage.

    According to Vindy, her husband Hikam (30) has always been rough on her even before the disaster struck.

    "Since we got married in 2017," she said. But after they started living in the huntara, his abusive behavior worsened, and it makes her life a living hell. The worst happened in June 2019.

    At that time, Vindy's brother came to visit. Vindy respects her brother very much because he gives her money for food, "my husband did not work."

    To please his brother, she turned on the lights. However, her husband who was sleeping angrily demanded the lights turned back off. "Eventually my brother got angry. He hit my paitu (husband)," she said.

    Because of the fight, Hakim left and moved to his parents' house in Mamboro. After a few days, Vindy went to her in-law's house to reconcile. But there, she was mistreated by her husband. "He hit me from behind and I fell. Then he stepped on me again, saying that have trampled his dignity," she said.

    Vindy reported the abuse to the police. Since they were married religiously, not registered under state law thus there is no marriage certificate, her husband was reported for assault.

    Just like the bathroom voyeurism, cases of violence against women are plaguing the huntara. Data compiled by Kompas.com shows that from January to July 2019, there were 134 reports of issues related to women and children. These were only the cases reported to LIBU Perempuan and the Central Sulawesi Women's Equality Struggle Group (KPKP-ST).

    LIBU and KPKP-ST are non-government organizations that advocate for women and children survivors in disaster-affected areas in Palu and its surrounding.

    Of the 134 reports, 68 reports—14 submitted to LIBU and 54 to KPKP-ST—were related to violence against women and children. But that is not the real number. According to Dewi Rana Amir, the actual number of cases could be much higher. "Because many cases go unreported. It's like an iceberg phenomenon," she said.

    Among the reports received by LIBU, four were attempted rape, two cases of infidelity, and two cases of neglect. There was also sexual harassment by a school principal, which was resolved through customary mediation or adat. There was also one case of incest by the victim's uncle. 

    There is also a mother who suffered chronic depression in Jono Oge Village, Sigi. She was referred to Madani Hospital. "She was depressed because her entire family, save for one child, died in the disaster," Maya Shafira said. "Because the mother is depressed, her child is entrusted to someone who is considered family."

    Meanwhile, KPKP-ST received reports that included three cases of rape, four cases of pregnancy out of wedlock, four cases of infidelity, and four cases of child abuse.

    Another advocacy organization, the Humanitarian Partners Network or JMK-Oxfam, also noted reports of rape, neglect, domestic violence, as well as divorce.

    "(These) have been reported to the police and the cases are being processed. There are around 15 reported cases," said Nining Rahayu, JMK's Partnership Management and Director of LBH Apik. JMK-Oxfam is currently monitoring 33 refugee centers in 30 villages.

    This institution suspects that many survivors are not even aware that they have become victims of violence. Maspa, JMK-Oxfam's Gender Officer, has a story.

    Maspa said that many women in the shelters are acting as breadwinners for their families, by selling cakes, for example. "When we asked what they do with the money they earn, their answer was for food and to buy cigarettes for their husbands," she said. "This [buying cigarettes for the husband] is an act of abuse they are not aware of."

    Cases like these, according to Maspa, are found in many refugee centers such as in Buluri and Langaleso.

    There is one type of abuse that gravely concerns LIBU: child marriage. They noted that there have been at least 11 cases at several refugee centers. "The most is found in the Petobo refugee center," Dewi said.

    According to the latest data received by Tenda Ramah Perempuan—managed by LIBU—there were five cases of child marriages in Petobo, three in Pantoloan, two in Jono Oge, and one in Balaroa.

    "Some of the girls were married to old men, the rest are married young men of 17-18 years old," Dewi said.

    There are various factors causing child marriages. One of them is economy. Some girls are orphaned when their parents died in the disasters. One girl was forced by her uncles and aunts to marry a man who lost his wife in the disaster. The marriage, Dewi said, lifted the burden of caring for the child off of the uncle and aunt.

    Another cause of child marriages: pregnancy out of wedlock.

    But the more worrying case is the circulation of drugs in the huntara. LIBU Perempuan's volunteer, Nawira Wakid, revealed that there were allegedly a number of children in a shelter in Palu working as a drug courier. They also use drugs on a regular basis.

    "We got this information from the mothers in the huntara,'this person uses drugs, that person delivers drugs’," Nawira said. "There are even suspicions that the drug circulation involves an entire family," she said again.

    In one huntara, drug abuse left Lani (not her real name) in bruises. One day, she asked for milk money from her husband, who was under the influence of drugs.  "Her husband did not give the money, but beat her up and kicked her out of the house," Nawira said. Later, Lani's husband was arrested by the police for a drug case.

    According to Dewi, there are many factors causing violence to erupt easily in shelters. The core of the problem, she said, is poverty. "They lost jobs, they lost their belongings. These losses cause many survivors to snap easily," she said. 

    The KPKP-ST's record showed that the types of violence against women and children in shelters changeover time. According to KPKP-ST chairwoman Soraya Sultan, the most prominent case in the current recovery phase is domestic violence. "Domestic violence has started to increase in rating compared to sexual harassment. During the early period of disaster aftermath, sexual harassment ranked highest. Now, it's the other way around".

    Soraya suspected stress as the main cause. Many of the refugees are depressed for not getting work, not knowing if they would get a replacement house, while there is no more logistics assistance. "It all has an effect," Soraya said.

    Whatever the cause of violence, Maya Shafira said, women and children are the main victims. "Violence against women and children continues to lurk; wherever they are, even in difficult situations," Maya said.

    To provide safe spaces for women and children in refugee camps, LIBU and KPKP-ST collaborate with the Office of Women's Empowerment and Child Protection (DP3A) of Central Sulawesi Province. They established 12 Women Friendly Tents (TRP) in a number of shelters recorded to have many cases of violence against women and children. Six are managed by LIBU, six are managed by KPKP-ST.

    Bathroom is the Key

    Kompas.com held field surveys on 50 female respondents living in four huntara—Balaroa, Petobo, Jono Oge, and Potoya. All of them said that the shelters are not friendly to women. One of the things they highlighted the most was the bathrooms.

    According to them, although the men's and women's bathrooms are separated, they are located next to each other. All respondents said this makes them vulnerable to sexual harassments. One respondent said she is always wary when using the bathroom.

    "The bathroom walls are only made of zinc. They have plenty of holes. We cover the holes with used soap, but the next day there are new holes," said a respondent who lives in Sigi shelter.

    Another respondent said some of the bathroom doors are even broken. There are also those who complain about the distance between their cabins and the shower-toilet stalls, which is quite far. "So, it's not safe if we take a shower," she said. Fortunately, "at night, our husbands usually come to the toilet with us," she said.

    JMK-Oxfam monitors 33 refugee centers in 30 villages. They corroborate Kompas.com's survey result. Nining Rahayu, JMK's Partnership Management and Director of LBH Apik, said that the conjoined bathrooms put women in a very vulnerable position. "Although we don't have the data yet, we have found numerous cases of voyeurism," she said.

    To curb down the number of harassment cases, JMK-Oxfam is campaigning to change the design—a movement against conjoined bathrooms. "We try to make the toilets separate or located in opposite directions. They have to be at least located in opposite directions. If they are located next to each other, the Peeping Toms could pretend that they want to use the bathroom, where in fact they plan to have a peek," Nining Rahayu said.

    There are still other programs for this toilet. JMK-Oxfam is campaigning for a bathroom design that is friendly for the elderly and people with disabilities. So far, out of 699 huntara units, there are only 342 latrines/inclusion toilets with designs that are friendly to women, children as well as accessible to the elderly and people with disabilities.

    Many toilets also require independent lighting, as many refugees are in areas without access to electricity. For this reason, JMK-Oxfam campaigns for the installation of solar panels for bathroom lights.

    "Right now, we have only installed solar panels in 25 shelters in Balaesang Tanjung and Sirenja Districts, Donggala Regency," said Ichan, JMK-Oxfam Protection Officer.

    Ichan said that they are pushing for the procurement of solar panels. "The plan is to install them in 11 more locations in Sigi Regency," Ichan said. "That way, children and women can go to the bathroom safely because there is lighting."

    Ferdy Kana Lo, Head of the Central Sulawesi Settlement Infrastructure Center, said that the bathrooms built by PUPR are already based on genders. "The huntara are built by PUPR according to standards. Each block has 12 cabins, front and rear. In the 12 cabins there are public kitchens, bathrooms and toilets. Other blocks are also like that, "he said.

    "When there are cases of voyeurism," he argued, "what must be fixed is Peeping Toms themselves."

    Fredy admitted there needs to be a special bathroom arrangement. "For example, Block 1 bathroom should have a writing that (specifically) says 'Women', and Block 2 bathroom (specifically) 'Men," he said.

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