Local culture in an emergency situation
Written by Albert Deby S., Yohanes Baskoro and Victor Dimas B. Putra (Karina-KAS’ volunteers for Caritas Joint Response).
“Humanitarian Aid Yes, Christianization No!!” A banner that can be found in some villages.
Disaster is an attention grabbing thing. The greater the impact of the disaster, the greater the attention of people. The encounter between human dignity and difficult situations makes people to want to take part, be present and give help. Various groups with different backgrounds are involved from the first day of the disaster until a few months or years later.
More people means more thoughts to accommodate. In emergency situations, often personal or group interests are involved. Humanity is torn by the interests and ideology and other beliefs that can effect the aid.
This happens also in West Sumatra which was affected by the 7.6 Richter scale earthquakes on September 30, 2009. Political parties, religious institutions, and non- governmental organizations (NGOs) set up emergency response centres. Each has its own spirit and ways to provide assistance to affected residents.
Residents in Jorong Simpang (Nagari Lurah Ampalu, Koto VII Sungai Sarik sub-district, Padang Pariaman district) are aware of political, economical or religious interests. “Balik Ke Nagari” means one's heart - one sense - one soul - in every situation. Each member of the community should have deep empathy to their neighbour in good times or bad times.
This can be seen in gotong royong activities (community work). Pulang ke Surau means back to the creed, religious rules. Most of citizens in West Sumatra are Muslim. Any influence from outside the area will be screened whether it is in accordance with the Muslim beliefs rooted in tradition and local culture.
Aburahim, a Wali Jorong, leader of the Simpang Community, with his people took a policy that aid had to be received in the coordination post and distributed by local volunteers. He said that the volunteers were ready 24 hours to assist the community in this emergency situation. They just take turns at each post. The volunteers were not paid at all. In fact, they had to pay their operational costs by themselves.
"We always coordinate in accordance with the structure of government and community leaders. If the Wali Nagari and community leaders do not agree to help, we will refuse. This is for security", said Aburahim. ”We do not want people to get upset because of political interests or Evangelization issues", he added.
They even refused the assessment or verification process of government data conducted by NGOs. Thus, the data base of that area came from the local government.
These policies have consequences. The volunteers must distribute the aid to the community members fairly and according to existing data. Together with 15 local youth, Aburahim shared any assistance that came to the village and delivered it to people's homes.
Sometimes data of local authorities do not match. According to the data fromthe Wali Nagari (whole village representative) there were 151 families in the area. However, based on the Wali Jorong’s data (sub-village representative), there are 168 families. There are some people who live there, who don’t have ID cards yet.
They did not get any aid because their names were not in the list of beneficiaries.
The process of aid distribution in Simpang Jorong became an interesting case, because Caritas Joint Response team was unable to do data verification. The Caritas Volunteers could not make sure whether the aid has been received by the beneficiaries or not.
All the goods given to the beneficiaries were accepted and entrusted to one person in charge. Information gathered from villagers during the monitoring – evaluation process, confirms that the beneficiaries received goods from CJR. There is still a need for in-depth monitoring - evaluation to confirm this information with the aid recipients.
In emergency situations, human dignity demands immediate assistance without neglecting the aspect of accountability, transparency and professionalism. While on the other hand, there is a local culture that is demanding a few things that are sometimes less in line with the demands of accountability, transparency, and professional assistance. Accountability and adjustments to local situations are like a coin. Giving more priority on one side can be like poison for the other.
RESOURCESAnnual Report 2011Emergency GuidelinesEmergency Response Tool KitEmergency Appeals 2012Emergency Appeals 2011Emergency Appeals 2010Emergencies on Caritas BlogBridging the Gap between Policy and Practice