Palu residents queue to depart on a military plane following the earthquake in Indonesia.
Indonesia – October 12 2018

Indonesian earthquake sparks child-welfare crisis

The catastrophic earthquake which struck off the Indonesian island of Sulawesi two weeks ago has left 20,000 children homeless and in desperate need of humanitarian aid. Thousands more have lost or been separated from their parents, leaving them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

SOS Children’s Villages has set up a child-friendly space in Palu to offer children affected by the disaster a safe place to play and receive nutritious meals, safe drinking water, health services, education and trauma counselling. The charity’s child-welfare specialists will also work to reunite children with their missing families.

The 7.5 magnitude earthquake which hit the region on Friday 28 September triggered a massive tsunami which engulfed the bustling city of Palu in 10-foot-high waves. Almost 2,000 people are confirmed dead and a further 5,000 remain missing. The number of children who have lost parental care is likely to be far higher than current estimates suggest.

Children in the area remain in desperate need of safe housing and basic supplies. Many are sheltering in ruined buildings or in temporary displacement camps. Access to food is limited, which has led to looting.

SOS Children’s Villages UK CEO Alison Wallace said: “Children and families in Palu need a place where they can feel safe, so they can begin to rebuild their lives and shattered communities. The children who have lived through this catastrophe need more than merely food, water and shelter –they need the chance to act like children by playing and making friends, they need the normality of returning to school, and they need trauma counselling to help heal the deep emotional wounds this disaster has caused.

“The terrible death toll we have witnessed, as well as the chaos and confusion that accompanies a disaster of this kind, has left too many children without the care and protection of a parent. We are deeply concerned for their safety. Child trafficking was a major problem in Indonesia even before the latest crisis, with 100,000 women and children being trafficked each year.”

As the world’s largest charity working with unsupported children SOS Children’s Villages works in emergency situations to protect children who have lost or been separated from their parents and to help reunite them with their missing families. When reunification is not possible, the charity offers unsupported children the chance to grow up in a nurturing family-like environment in one of their village communities. SOS Children’s Villages employs teachers, social workers and trauma counsellors across Indonesia whose skills will be integral to the programme.

The destruction of roads and transport links in the most affected areas has hindered the humanitarian response to the crisis. In the early stages of the relief effort the Indonesian government prioritised access for medical personnel and engineers, but SOS Children’s Villages are now able to send specialists from their village community in Flores to the region. It took the team two days to make the 900-kilometre journey by boat, land and sea.

SOS Children's Villages has launched an emergency appeal to help the most vulnerable children in Sulawesi. Your support will help us:

  • establish child-care spaces for children ages 3 to 15 so they have a safe place to enjoy educational and recreational activities
  • ensure children’s nutritional needs are met
  • provide access to water, sanitation and hygiene facilities

Find out more about how we help when an emergency strikes.

Find out more

Notes to editors:
For media enquiries please contact Lucy Prioli at or on 01223 222 974.

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