Disaster Vulnerability: Snapshot of Indonesia

Give2Asia and the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR) have partnered to connect private sector philanthropy to effective community-based programs that mitigate disasters in Asia’s most vulnerable countries. This post comes as the second in a series of six outlining the vulnerability of countries selected for the program. Learn more about the NGO Disaster Preparedness Program or read more about Indonesia’s vulnerability to disasters.

Indonesia’s unique geography of 17,000 islands, over 80,000 kilometers of coast, and location on the Pacific Ring of Fire with 129 active volcanoes, make the country highly vulnerable to sea-level rise, natural disasters, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. Flooding has the largest impact on people’s livelihoods, while earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions are the most threatening hazards faced by Indonesia. Sumatra and Java are the most vulnerable areas; topography and unstable soil conditions put these islands at high risk for landslides. Jakarta, with a population of 10 million inhabitants, is sinking 3.5 centimeters a year, and approximately 40 percent of the city is already below sea level.

Environmental degradation, such as deforestation, destruction of protective reefs, mangroves, and wetlands exacerbate Indonesia’s vulnerability. Dense populations coupled with poor infrastructure, urbanization, and poorly enforced zoning, leave nearly 35 million people living in informal settlements highly exposed to disasters. The lack of food security is alarming; the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) predicts that for every one degree centigrade rise in temperature, Indonesia’s rice yield will decrease by ten percent.

Due to the government’s decentralized disaster response structure, local capacity for response is lacking and funding is often diverted from preparation and mitigation to response. Decision making and funding are transferred to more than 30 provincial and over 400 district levels, yet many local disaster management agencies do not have the technical knowledge or skills necessary to provide support. Many governments struggle to develop disaster mitigation plans because they are unclear about what disaster risk reduction means in practice and how to translate policy framework into concrete programs. Only 18 out of 33 provinces have established municipal disaster management agencies to deal with disaster.

Additionally, government policy directs aid agency and international NGO funding to government preparation and response at all levels, rather than to civil society. Thus, most donor activities are aimed at strengthening government agencies rather than local NGO capacities; as a result, local NGOs fall short on funding and management capacity. However, these same local NGOs and community-based organizations (CBOs) are often the groups that provide innovative community-based solutions on limited resources. These groups also often fill a gap by serving communities left out of the government plans due to location, language, culture or other factors. International grantmakers and the private sector have the opportunity to support these small local organizations doing community-based disaster risk reduction, whom need wide-ranging support in order to mitigate future disasters.

Give2Asia recommends that international donors work through these local NGOs and CBOs to address needs in their target communities, thus building organizational capacity as well as implementing projects. Opportunities for donors include:

  • Implementing early warning systems
  • Training and education on evacuation plans and shelters
  • Climate change adaptation for agricultural workers through drought resistant seeds and crop diversification
  • Jakarta-based flood prevention programs
  •  Training volunteers as first responders in disaster prone areas
  • Providing expertise and funding for local governments to develop disaster mitigation plans and properly disseminate the plans to community stakeholders