People drive past a washed up boat and collapsed buildings in Palu on October 1st 2018 after an earthquake and tsunami hit the area on September 28th
Indonesia Emergency

Tsunami victims need physical and mental care

On September 28, a tsunami struck the center of the Indonesian archipelago, killing more than 1,200 people. Humanity & Inclusion is preparing to help people with disabilities and those injured. Pauline Falipou, an emergency physical therapist with HI, provided rehabilitation care in the wake of the 2015 Nepal earthquake. She explains the rehabilitation needs of the Indonesian people who are facing this type of emergency today.

Two disasters, many victims

We’re dealing with two disasters in Indonesia: an earthquake and a tsunami. The mortality rate is usually high in this kind of situation, 1,200 people have already died, the majority of them from drowning. But we can also expect to see a lot of injuries—wounds, fractures, head injuries and lung infections—because the people rescued from drowning may have swallowed contaminated water. We need to take urgent action in order to help the injured.

Immediate rehabilitation care

In the early stages of an emergency, HI teams will work in hospitals, which are saturated with injured people. Depending on the sort of injuries and traumas we face, we work with emergency medical teams to ensure the best possible care for patients.

Among them are people who have been rescued from a near drowning. It's critical that they bring up any contaminated water they may have swallowed. Our staff show them exercises to move secretions up, through their lungs, and to clear them from their body.

For fractures and head injuries, we must provide rehabilitation care immediately following any operation to avoid permanent disabilities. Our rehabilitation team performs the initial procedures, provides technical assistance, and distributes mobility devices such as wheelchairs and crutches.  

Psychological support

We never work alone — always in conjunction with psychologists, psychosocial workers and local caregivers.

Trauma is one of the biggest challenges when hundreds of people have been injured or when they’ve experienced the loss of a loved one in a traumatic event like a tsunami. For example, while working in Nepal following the 2015 earthquake, I met children who had limbs amputated and others with spinal cord injuries who could no longer walk.

These are very difficult situations to cope with. Oftentimes, people need to go through a period of mourning in order to accept their new physical condition and the fact that they will require psychological support as well as rehabilitation care.

In Indonesia, we’re assessing the situation so we can better understand the injuries and trauma experienced by survivors.


Pauline Falipou, an emergency physical therapist with HI, examines the leg of a man following the 2015 earthquake in Nepal.

Humanity & Inclusion in Indonesia

HI has worked in the country since 2005, regularly providing support to victims of natural disasters. Our team organizes disaster prevention workshops and workshops to improve community resilience. Learn more about our work in Indonesia.


Photo caption (top of page): People drive past a washed up boat and collapsed buildings in Palu on October 1, 2018, after an earthquake and tsunami hit the area.