“I have experienced how it felt when we lost almost everything … so I know how difficult it is for the communities to keep surviving during this difficult year.”
Those are the words of Nurdianto, a Mercy Corps team member from Indonesia. Nurdianto knows what it’s like to lose almost everything. A survivor of the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, he has dedicated his life to partnering with disaster-struck communities to support them in rebuilding their lives.
Every year, millions of people are displaced as a result of their exposure to disasters, including violent conflict, political upheaval and extreme weather patterns. Amid these challenging circumstances our Xylem Watermark partner Mercy Corps brings emergency, life-changing relief to those who need it most in more than 40 countries around the world.
Regardless of the cause, the human toll of disasters is often the same: families uprooted; children unable to attend school; people struggling to survive without shelter, food or clean water. The global COVID-19 pandemic has further compounded their problems. Maintaining good hygiene and preventing the spread of the virus amongst displaced populations is often difficult as evacuation sites lack basic handwashing facilities, access to clean water and items for sanitation and hygiene.
The majority of Mercy Corps global team members are from the countries in which they serve and are witnessing first-hand how the virus is disrupting their communities. Their teams are continuously adapting to implement measures to stop the spread of infection, such as the need to limit movement and crowds gathering, promote good hygiene practices and coordinate efforts with local governments.
“For displaced communities, access to water is a daily struggle. We feel privileged to work with partners like Mercy Corps to support their efforts to bring critical aid to families in dire need, and to help communities prepare for future water-related crises.”
Making Waves connected with Mercy Corps to hear about the humanitarians providing help and the individuals receiving critical aid, to learn how they’ve coped through these challenging times.
Partnering with disaster-struck communities in Indonesia
In Indonesia, tens of thousands of people have been living in temporary shelters since 2018, when a 7.4‑magnitude earthquake destroyed communities and triggered a tsunami. In January 2021, they experienced further devastation when a series of deadly disasters struck, culminating in a devastating 6.2‑magnitude earthquake.
Nurdianto, Mercy Corps Disaster Recovery Deputy Program Manager, was deployed to West Sulawesi to help those affected by the earthquake. Despite the purpose he finds in humanitarian service, Nurdianto is also human. Like many other aid workers during the pandemic, Nurdianto grapples with the reality that his work may put him at a greater risk for contracting COVID‑19.
“One of the biggest challenges is that our West Sulawesi Earthquake Response is in a Red Zone – Indonesia’s highest risk rating for COVID‑19. Here, many people are living in crowded tents after the earthquake, making it impossible to social distance,” he shared.
Despite the risks, the Mercy Corps team responded quickly in the aftermath of the earthquake to distribute critical aid, including clean water, food, shelter kits, and hygiene supplies.
Xylem Watermark’s Emergency WASH Fund has supported Mercy Corps in their urgent efforts to secure safe water for residents of a displacement camp in Damboa, Nigeria
Emergency response to support Nigeria’s displaced communities
Since Boko Haram’s armed rebellion against their government in 2009, north-eastern Nigeria has been devastated. 81% of Nigeria’s population has been displaced and are now living in camps. In Damboa, the crisis has impacted access to essential water, sanitation, and hygiene services, and this continues to be a challenge.
Xylem Watermark’s Emergency WASH Fund has supported Mercy Corps in their efforts to secure safe water for residents like Hauwa (pictured, left) to drink, clean and bathe, including through undertaking water quality checks.
Across the world, millions of displaced people lack access to lighting1 which is a critical factor in accessing water and sanitation (WASH) facilities safely at night. With Mercy Corps support, large numbers in the Damboa camp now have access to a solar rechargeable lantern, to help them safely access WASH facilities, as well as hygiene kits to help fight the spread of COVID-19.
“Five years ago, we were displaced. The house where I stay with my children leaks and we don’t have enough food that will carry us for a month... The clean water protects us from disease. Without water we cannot survive.” -Hauwa Madu, who lives in a displacement camp in Damboa, Nigeria.
The stories from Nurdianto and Hauwa give us a glimpse of what life is like when disasters strike, and lives are turned upside down. And the need for support from partners like Mercy Corps is increasing worldwide. The Global Report on Internal Displacement revealed that in 2020, despite the pandemic, the number of people displaced from their homes reached a 10-year high, with natural disasters being the culprit for more and more lives being disrupted.
“When disaster strikes, Mercy Corps does everything we can to rapidly mobilize our teams and respond quickly and effectively. Our ability to act at a moment's notice can make all the difference in addressing the urgent water and WASH needs of communities. It is critical that we partner with donors who provide flexible and immediate funding in these times. Together with our partners, we're working with communities to rebuild and strengthen resilience to crisis for the long-term and create a world where everyone can prosper.” – Adrienne Karecki, Chief Development and Marketing Officer, Mercy Corps
The mission of Watermark, Xylem’s corporate social responsibility program, is to provide education and equitable access to safe water to ensure healthy lives build resilient communities. Learn more about Xylem Watermark’s work in disaster response and get involved in our global preparedness and volunteer efforts here.
1World Bank Document 2020