LONDON (AlertNet) – Aid workers responding to floods that have swamped the Indonesian capital Jakarta fear an outbreak of disease, especially among children playing in dirty floodwaters.
At least 12 people have been killed and more than 18,000 forced to flee their homes by the floods, which began on Wednesday following torrential rains.
Overall, some 250,000 people have been affected across the sprawling city, according to Save the Children. But there are warnings the rains could worsen in the coming days.
Water levels have hit three metres in some places after rains caused river banks to burst. Jakarta’s governor has declared a state of emergency until Jan 27.
“We are using rubber dinghies to evacuate people in west and east Jakarta. We’re also delivering food items, hygiene kits, blankets and baby supplies,” Lian Lestariningsih, spokeswoman for Karina, the Indonesian branch of relief agency Caritas, told AlertNet.
RISK OF ILLNESS AND SKIN INFECTIONS
The displaced include nearly 5,000 children, according to Save the Children, which is preparing to distribute toiletries, cleaning items and school materials.
“Children are always most vulnerable in these situations,” said Indonesia country director Ricardo Caivano.
“We are especially worried about children who may have been separated from their parents during the flooding. Children are also less likely to be able to cope with torrents of floodwater, especially if they cannot swim.”
He said displaced families were staying in around 70 temporary shelters including schools and community centres. Many others have moved in with friends or relatives and some are living on the upper floors of flooded homes.
“There are no health problems at this point but the water is dirty and typically when you have floods you have gastrointestinal problems,” Caivano told AlertNet.
“The children like to play in the water so our concern is ... the possibility of illness and skin infections.”
The flooding eased on Friday, but aid workers said the city was bracing for more rain.
“The situation is not under control yet,” Caivano added. “A lot of people do not have somewhere to go and need assistance.”
Jakarta is particularly vulnerable to flooding as 13 rivers flow into it. Forty percent of the city is below sea-level.
The floods are the worst to hit Jakarta since 2007 when dozens were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced.
But aid workers said the current flooding had impacted a larger area than the 2007 floods, including parts of the west that had not been affected before.
The flooding has caused blackouts, closed schools and businesses and made key roads impassable.
World Vision, which has appealed for $1 million to fund relief work, has already begun distributing blankets and mattresses and will soon start delivering supplies for babies and children as well as toiletries.
Billy Sumuan, World Vision’s emergency chief for Indonesia, said floods often brought diarrhoeal illnesses and there was a need for clean drinking water, hygiene items and supplies to clean up homes.
“We are still expecting more rain to come in the next few weeks,” he added.