A Big Challenge to Relocate Disaster-Affected Families

Relocation has always been a challenge in term of durable solution in disaster management. It is what the local authority of Karo Regency in Province of Sumatera Utara experiences. Sinabung Volcano was inactive after 1.000 years ‘sleeping’ and during that time local inhabitants around the volcano are unaware about characteristics of the place
they live in. Generation to generation, grown population around Sinabung had been unaware that the sleeping volcano would erupt. And the volcano is still erupting until today. No one can predict when the volcano will stop erupting and spewing out volcanic materials.

siosarDue to impacts of volcano that erupt at the first time in 2013, thousands of families have to evacuate miles away to safer places. There are 10 villages that the local inhabitants have to leave their villages. These villages are Bekerah, Sukameriah, Simacem, Guru Kinayan, Kuto Tonggal, Beras Tepu, Gamber, Mardinding, Sukanalu, and Sigaranggarang. Besides those villages, thousands of inhabitants from another 6 villagers have to evacuate temporarily.

Local authority with support from the national government already proposed relocation program as durable solution for the evacuees. At the first phase of relocation, 370 families have been relocated in Siosar, whereas the second phase, 1.683 families are still waiting for the houses built. Up to December 2016, a total number that have not yet permanently settled is 648 families. These additional families have to be relocated due to wide impacts of the eruption.

Relocation as the durable solution is a big challenge for the local authority. Besides of land availability, the challenge of relocation is due to social cohesion and place attachment. According to McCraken, social cohesion is a characteristic of society dealing with the connections and relations between individuals, groups, associations as well as territorial units (Schimtt, 2000). O’Connor (1998) identified dimension of social cohesion on ties that bind like values, identity an culture, differences and divisions, and social glue. Social glue refers to associations and networks, infrastructures, values and identity.

siosar 2Meanwhile, place attachment is more on a location or a place where inhabitant can survive and make a living. Determining the location of a consideration for the resident because of family and security attachment (Eacott and Sonn, 2006). Security means a guarantee of sustainability derived from the surrounding environment. What is provided by nature will encourage people to stay in a region (Tigges, 2006). Cross (2001) considers that the factors of the relationship with the means and facilities or comodified relationship can encourage people to settle in one location. This factor is more cognitive and physical than emotional. Conversely, a region that is isolated or do not support the livelihoods of the region will not be selected by the community (Tigges 2006).

In the context of relocation, a few years ago, precisely in 2003, the same challenges faced by East Timorese refugees. Post referendum in 1999, waves of refugees flee across borders towards West Timor, such as Kupang, Belu, Atambua, Kefamenanu, and Soe. And after a few years, thousands of East Timorese had still been living in some of the evacuation shelter (a terminology used during that time is ‘camp’). The government has made various efforts such as relocation programs in Timor and repatriation. Repatriation is the return of refugees to the places of origin citizenship.

Then a pilot project was offered as a durable solution for the refugees who remained in the shelters. The project is collaboration between several parties, such as the Province of East Nusa Tenggara, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and supported by humanitarian organizations such as Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) and CIS Timor. The relocation program was conducted with several approaches, namely Go and See Visit (GSV) and Come and Talk Visit (CTV). GSV focused on family representative refugees from East Timor to visit the relocation site and meet with local residents. At this stage, the parties could mutually discuss and exchange experiences of life. Some of the images and video captured to share with those who were still in camps as a matter of socialization.

Then, CTV was conducted later. CTV focused on representatives of host community to see firsthand the conditions of refugees in the camp. They could meet and had dialogue with families and walk around to see their living poor conditions.

In both of these processes occurred dialogue and discussion in the two different communities. After representatives of the refugees back to the camp, they talked about Denduka. Denduka is a village in West Sumba that time. Video was played in the camps to attract them to join the relocation program. Meanwhile, representatives of Denduka community leaders also shared stories of refugee lives among Denduka community. One of the concerns to the host community was about a status that embedded on some groups of refugees, i.e. the status of involvement as militia during the civil war in East Timor Denduka.

In the end, the host community of Denduka received 60 families of East Timorese refugee. Behind the success of relocation due to several factors, such as the process of dialogue between the two sides, the availability of land for housing and farming for Denduka new residents, 6 months continue support from government, acceptance of customs that bind them into the family of Denduka community, compensation for developing Denduka Village (community development fund) receiving the refugees. A similar process occurred for 40 families of East Timorese refugee that successfully was relocated in Soru Village, still in Sumba Island.

Affected local inhabitants experienced a different story at what happened after huge explosive of Merapi Volcano in 2010. Number of families living in the red zone had to be relocated to safer places. Relocation is the only option as durable solution in this situation. The inhabitants who joined a relocation program do not have to move away to another location but they moved to the neighboring area. The relocated families got stimulus for building houses and economic empowerment so that they can be independent. The government also built some public facilities in relocation areas, such as clinics, meeting halls, and schools.

Likewise, inhabitants lived at riverbanks of Ciliwung River in Jakarta. Most of those who would be relocated got a place to stay in simple flats. They are able to live in dignity, accessing a better house and transport facility.

Bekerah_MG_0384 (3)Indeed, it is not easy like turning palm of the hand to relocate disaster-affected residents. Social cohesion and place attachment are major challenges in any relocation program. Meanwhile, access to land for housing and land are also the biggest problem. On the other hand, of course, the residents need some adjustment for daily activities like a distance to working place or school. Innovative relocation program will be sustainable solution for those who need a place to stay. Could be, open to discussion and accommodate people’s expectations. Many successful practices of relocation can be replicated and modified in accordance with the social and cultural context.



Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s