CALANG, Indonesia – The trickle of moisture dripping down a rock has become a drinking water supply at this city-turned-refugee camp. It's also the shower. And the trash dump.
Tsunami (search) victims from all around the ruined city of Calang, 70 miles south of Banda Ac (search)eh, have been arriving daily to a growing settlement that local officials say has swelled to some 7,000 survivors.
As the camp grows, considerations left behind have been sanitation and preserving clean sources of water, meaning conditions such as diarrhea are becoming rampant and raising the threat of other diseases, doctors here say.
Refugees are rigging leftover pieces of corrugated metal to branches to create makeshift cabins, sheltering their families on the hillsides ringing this former fishing town where not a single building was left standing after the tsunami hit Dec. 26.
U.S. Navy and other helicopters have been running regular flights to Calang to ferry in supplies. Children play in the now-gentle waves alongside two Indonesian navy amphibious ships sitting on the shoreline with aid and a clinic — one of three now located here. The city's own 10 doctors all died in the tsunami.
Aid supplies in the city itself now aren't the problem, said Syafrizal, logistics coordinator for the local government, standing next to heaps of donated clothes. It's getting the supplies to isolated areas nearby where helicopters or boats are the only means for carrying cargo — severely limiting the amount of aid that can be delivered.
"We have some supplies, we have food here," said Syafrizal, who like many Indonesians uses only one name. "But we have problems with how to drop it to other camps."
If the aid won't come to the people, the people will come to the aid.
Sariffuddin Puteh, 32, came from the village of Tenom with nine other neighbors to gather supplies for the estimated 1,000 people left alive. He said helicopters came every day, but only brought biscuits one day or water and medicine the next — meaning families were running low on rice, the main staple of the Indonesian diet.
"We never get rice," he said.
The tsunami victims arrive with only the clothes on their backs — all they have left — and are coping with the loss of dozens of neighbors and relatives in the area that suffered the brunt of the tsunami's wrath along the west coast of Indonesia's Sumatra Island.
The last thing on their minds when they make camp on whatever patch of ground is free from debris is keeping the decimated area clean.
Children fill water bottles from a pool of gray water, while the family across the dirt road said they used the same puddle for washing their dishes.
Up the hill at a well marked with a sign reading "For cooking water only," Nilawati, 22, who is nine months pregnant, said she was filling a bucket for her 3-year-old son to drink — not aware that bottled water was available just down the road.
Already, three quarters of the children at Calang have diarrhea, said Dr. Rick Brennan of U.S.-based aid group International Rescue Committee, who was in the area for an aid assessment Monday. All the water sources in Calang are contaminated and survivors haven't set up any latrines to make sure what's left isn't polluted further.
The lack of clean water raises the threat of waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid, dysentery and hepatitis, Brennan said.
IRC had been planning to send doctors to the Calang camp, but because there's already enough medical personnel they will now deploy a water and sanitation specialist.
Dr. Bidik Catur, an Indonesian military doctor, also noted that no one has any soap or any other hygienic items. Many survivors are also already suffering from protein deficiency.
Zulfian Achmal, head of Calang district, said a key item needed now is tents to house the arriving stream of refugees.
And the camp is set to get more crowded. Achmal said officials want to resettle survivors from the across the region to Calang where they can get more help.