“Before latrines were in the camp, we defecated in the river; and, often, we [women] had to wait because there were always men in the river, so felt insecure and uncomfortable.” This statement from Sanuba, who moved to an evacuation camp in Donggala after the September 2018 earthquake that centered on Palu, could have been made by any one of hundreds of women whose lives were upended by the earthquake. The river Sanuba was talking about is 300 meters (1/5 mile) from the camp, which made it hard for women and elderly people to reach, especially at night. “After it rains, the river usually floods, which makes it even more difficult to use. We were also scared of animals and snakes,” she continued.
While addressing priority needs for clean, safe water, which CWS teams are trucking to encampment areas, and for basic shelter, they were also working to organize skilled workers and to buy good quality material to build safe, sanitary latrines and bathing rooms, too. Finally, in December, CWS staff could prioritize working with camp residents to build latrines and bathing areas for one camp, which brought this response, among many other positive ones: “I am very grateful to CWS for providing basic materials, and a water tank, so we can build latrines and store clean water”. Just as people were using the river for a toilet and to bathe, they were also using filthy river water for other things too. Now, besides clean, chlorinated water that is trucked in daily from municipal water treatment plants, and some shelter, families also have better hygiene infrastructure. And, as relief and early recovery work continues for tens of thousands of people across Central Sulawesi, Sanuba and her family, who are farmers with land relatively close to their evacuation camp, have been able to return to their land to plan corn, chili and a few other vegetables. However, since their house is gone, they still live in the camp, and appreciate the safe, sanitary latrines and bathing area.
The earthquake brought the region’s economy and countless families’ lives to an immediate standstill a few months ago. But now, several months on, people are overcoming their shock and dealing more each day with the devastation visited upon them. Sanuba, and others like her, are moving slowly but sure to rebuild their lives and livelihoods, though it will take years, everyone knows, to return to the old normal. So, for now, Sanuba and others are creating a new normal and trying to get by – with a little help from their friends, like CWS, other ACT Alliance members and other government and non-government agencies.
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