In this Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018, photo, a child recovers after his left hand was amputated after being injured in the massive earthquake in Palu, Central Sulawesi Indonesia. (Tatan Syuflana/AP Photo)

Thousands of children in desperate need following Indonesia earthquake and tsunami

International efforts to help survivors of Indonesia’s devastating earthquake and tsunami gathered pace on Thursday as aid agencies sounded the alarm over the fate of tens of thousands of children who are in desperate need of care, food, water and shelter, six days after disaster struck.

More than 46,000 children are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, according to Indonesia’s disaster authority.

Last Friday’s 7.5 magnitude quake and the tsunami waves it triggered have killed at least 1,407 people, including hundreds of children, and destroyed more than 65,000 homes on Sulawesi Island.

Most of the deaths are in the region’s main city of Palu but officials expect the death toll to rise as rescue teams begin accessing more remote areas closer to the epicentre of the earthquake.

Desperate residents on the island were scavenging for food in farms and orchards as the government struggled to overcome shortages of water, food, shelter and fuel in a disaster zone with no power and degraded communications.

Lost children

Children eat outside their tent for safety reasons after the earthquake in Biromaru village in Sigi, in Indonesia’s Sulawesi island, October 3, 2018. (Beawiharta/REUTERS)

The potential impact on youngsters is particularly concerning, UN Children’s agency UNICEF said, with more than 40 per cent of children under age of five in Central Sulawesi already stunted from malnutrition.

The fact that only 33 per cent of births are registered in the area is also a potential obstacle to reuniting unaccompanied minors with their families, UNICEF spokesperson Christophe Boulierac said.

“In Central Sulawesi we have concerns not only for the safety of children in Palu, but also in the city of Dongala and other communities still cut off from humanitarian aid,” he said, adding that the full impact of the earthquake and tsunami disaster was not yet clear.

Children’s charity Save the Children said there is an urgent need to identify children who lost or were separated from their families during Friday’s devastating earthquake and tsunami.

Many of the children are simply in a state of shock, said Child Protection Adviser Zubedy Koteng.

“I’m particularly worried about children who’ve been separated from their families or are now orphans because their parents have lost their lives in this tragedy,” Koteng said in a statement. “Many of these children are sleeping on the streets because they simply have nowhere to go. It’s hard to imagine a more frightening situation for a child.”

Aid trickles in

An Indonesian rescue team carries the body of a victim following an earthquake and tsunami in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018. (Tatan Syuflana/AP Photo)

Officials at CARE said their efforts will focus mainly in the Donggala area, north of Palu city, one of the hardest hit areas and the least likely to receive needed assistance.

“Our goal is to get to those survivors to provide life-saving drinking water, shelter and proper sanitation,” explained Helen Vanwel, CARE Indonesia country director, who is Canadian.

“Still, access to these areas is severely limited. A landslide has blocked the main road into Palu, flights are restricted into the airport, there’s a destruction of major seaports and a general lack of communication.”

Minister of International Development Marie-Claude Bibeau announced Tuesday that Canada will provide $1.5 million in emergency assistance to support humanitarian organizations responding to the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami.

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