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Indonesia: Relief Still Needed for Rokatenda Refugees

The impact of the Rokatenda volcanic eruption in Flores Island in East Nusa Tenggara in Indonesia is still felt by some 3,000 refugees from Sikka District.

Rokatenda erupted last February and following the natural disaster, residents are still hesitant and afraid to return to their houses.

Rokatenda artwork by Rara W (@jamduapagi)

Rokatenda artwork by @jamduapagi, used with permission

Through a text message sent to Global Voices, Father Hilde Tanga, from Maumere Diocese said that residents living near Mount Rokatenda are still living in shelters in Palu'e Island. Although the volcanic activity has receded, ash spew and small eruptions followed by tremors are still occurring.

Once again several Indonesian online network coordinated with each other to make sure the effectiveness of humanitarian response coming from all corners of the archipelago.

Communities of bloggers and social media users were actively and responsively passing on news about the eruption  through Twitter and Facebook. On Twitter they used hashtags #Rokatenda and #KupangBagarak. Some of them also broadcast news through the popular Blackberry Messenger service.

Flobamora, East Nusa Tenggara bloggers community, dedicated their time and energy to report new developments from the field as well as continuously dispatching provisions badly needed by the refugees. Latest updates on  Rokatenda can be read on Flobamora's Twitter timeline or their Facebook page.

Christian Dicky Senda in his blog Naked Timur reflected on the social media users’ contribution in the wake of the disaster:

Bencana yang memicu terjadinya gelombang pengungsi ke kota Maumere dan Kec. Maurole di Kabupaten Ende ini memang harus membutuhkan perhatian kita, ketika pemerintah daerah sendiri terkesan abai dalam hal tanggap darurat, maka kelahiran gerakan baru di media sosial seperti Twitter, Blog dan Facebook saya rasa adalah sebuah keniscayaan baru yang baik. Ini terkait nyawa ribuan orang, tak bisa juga kita berlama-lama atau berdiam diri saja.

[...]

Siapa sangka bahwa dari status Facebook, Twitter, BBM atau menulis kisahnya secara lengkap di blog, orang-orang secara sukarela menyodorkan bantuannya. Di beberapa kota seperti Ambon, Kupang, Soe dan khususnya Ende sebagai kota dengan member Komunitas Blogger NTT terbanyak kemudian mencetuskan aksi-aksi solidaritasnya.

The situation of refugees in the city of Maumere and Maurole Sub-District in Ende requires our attention, (when) administrative government seems ignorant about humanitarian response, I think the new Social Media movements such as those on Twitter, blogs, and Facebook  are of great importance. Thousands of lives are involved, we can't be sluggish or remain idle.

[...]

Who knew that from Facebook statuses, Twitter, BBM (Blackberry Messaging), or by writing stories on blogs, people would be inspired to volunteer or offer their help? In cities like Ambon, Kupang, Soe and especially Ende where most of the Flobamora's community members are based, solidarity actions began.

On their blog, Flobamora community said scores of residents have been moving out of their villages since November 2012, long before the big eruption on February 3, 2013.

Gunung Rokatenda terletak di sebuah pulau kecil bernama Pulau Palu’e. Pulau ini masuk dalam wilayah administratif Kabupaten Sikka tapi letaknya justru di depan pantai di wilayah Maurole, Kabupaten Ende.

[...]

Ada sekitar 11.000 penduduk di sana dan pengungsi yang tercatat baru 2.000 jiwa saja.

Kenapa ada penduduk yang memilih tidak meninggalkan Palu’e? Karena terikat perasaan dan tradisi.

Mount Rokatenda situated in a small island called Palu'e. The island is listed as part of Sikka District, however its location is exactly facing the beach of Maurole area in Ende District.

[...]

There are 11,000 residents living there and only 2,000 people listed as displaced. Why many choose to stay in Palu'e? Because they're attached with the place and bound to traditions.

Malnutrition, respiratory infection, Malaria, and Diarrhea are haunting those living in the emergency shelters. Faced with trouble in accessing humanitarian aid from the administrative government, some of the refugees held a protest action last January. The protest didn't end well since it led to the arrest of some protesters.

The mainstream media reported that refugees are experiencing logistics problem due to the preparation of the local election and limited stock of clean water and food reserve.

Information on logistics and donation for refugees are available by using the Twitter hashtags #Geser #Rokatenda, #1mugberas and #Kupangbagarak.

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