Sulawesi three months on: a mother and a daughter’s story

Earthquake and tsunami relief Action Against Hunger

Two-Year-Old Dewi was pulled out of the sinking ground when the earthquake hit her village in Sulawesi

It has been more than three months since the devastating earthquake and tsunami struck the island of Sulawesi and families are slowly starting to piece together their lives. On 28th September 2018, over 2,000 lives were lost and over 70,000 people’s houses were destroyed, leaving mothers like Riski with no choice but to take her children and her mother Nurmin to a displaced persons camp.

Earthquake and tsunami relief Action Against Hunger
Riski and her daughter *Dewi


When the earthquake hit her village, Riski and her two-year-old daughter Dewi, desperately tried to escape, running on the sinking ground. The earthquake in Sulawesi triggered a rare phenomenon called liquefaction, where the solid ground turns to liquid mud. Dewi was sucked into the mud up to her neck and her grandma desperately pulled at anything she could clutch to get her out; “I grabbed her hair and yanked, until I could grasp her round the chin to get her out as the mud sucked her down,” said Nurmin.

After eight terrifying hours of chaos and panic, Dewi, Riski and Nurmin all escaped. With their home destroyed and their village submerged by mud, they are grateful to have each other. Hundreds of missing people are feared to be buried in the mud at Petobo. Where Dewi’s home once was, memorials to those who are missing or have died now stand. Flags have been planted at the site reading “rest in peace”.

Earthquake and tsunami relief Action Against Hunger
The site of the village of Petobo


Dewi and her family now live in a camp for displaced families. The level of devastation is so great, that months later, families like Dewi’s are still living in tents with little sign of being bale to return to their village. However, at the family shelter, Dewi now has a safe environment to start playing and laughing again, giving her the chance to continue her childhood. She has made new friends like four year old Azam, who also fled Petobo with his family.

Earthquake and tsunami relief Action Against Hunger
Azam and Dewi

Her family now has access to food, shelter and clean water. Action Against Hunger has been working with a local partner called Yakkum Emergency Unit (YEU) in camps like those where Dewi now lives, to provide clean water. Our teams have built two water treatment stations, to ensure mums like Riski can give their children clean, safe drinking water. Partnering with other charities, we are working towards a target of giving 10,000 families access to clean water by March 2019.

Earthquake and tsunami relief Action Against Hunger
Action Against Hunger water facilities in Sulawesi


The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) charities have been helping survivors from the moment the earthquake struck by providing shelter, access to clean water, psychosocial support and school supplies so children’s education can continue despite the difficult conditions. Being the 14th member of this wider group of charities has enabled our Action Against Hunger teams to respond in a more coordinated and efficient way.

As well as providing support for families living in displacement camps, Action Against Hunger teams are also working towards repairing water networks in villages where the systems were destroyed by the earthquake. We are there to support communities and rebuild the infrastructure so that Sulawesi can begin the road to recovery. It will take a long time for Sulawesi to be rebuilt after such a devastating disaster, but your support is helping to put survivors back on their feet and help them begin to rebuild their lives and communities.

Only three months after Sulawesi, Indonesia has been hit once again by a tsunami triggered by the Anak Krakatau volcano eruption. With more warnings being issued and the area at risk being widened, our teams are tracking the situation with the help of our local partners. Our thoughts are with the families affected.

*Dewi’s name has been changed