By Husni, IFRC

Riki, 11, was asleep when a strong earthquake shook his home in Pidie Jaya District of Aceh, Indonesia in the early morning of December 2016.  His house collapsed over him and he was trapped.

“It was dark and I heard my son yelling for help,” recalled Nur Aini, Riki’s mother.

Riki was eventually rescued, but one of his legs sustained serious injuries.

“He became quiet and withdrawn and kept to himself after the earthquake and now he can only walk with a crutch,” his mom added.  “I have been very concerned about him.”

The 6.5 magnitude earthquake claimed 104 lives and its destruction impacted 85,000 people. For many locals, the quake also triggered painful memories of the deadly tsunami that devastated the province of Aceh in December 2004.

“We were terrified once again when the recent earthquake hit,” said Nur Aini. “Fearing another tsunami, many people fled their homes and moved to higher ground, even if  damage to their house was minimal.”

In the weeks and months after the December earthquake, the Indonesian Red Cross Society came to the aid of affected communities and discovered that many people were experiencing ongoing and high levels of fear and trauma, particularly those in severely impacted villages where people lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods.

“Based on our findings, we began providing a range of activities to help heal psychological wounds stemming from this disaster and previous ones,” said Miswar, the Psychosocial Coordinator of the Indonesian Red Cross in Pidie Jaya.

The psychosocial programme included counselling sessions and play therapy carried out by more than 20 trained staff and volunteers. Riki and many other affected children regularly participated in the play sessions held in the Bandar Baru area.

“We initially planned to cover five hard-hit communities for a period of two months but then increased this to 44 villages for six months due to significant need,” Miswar added.  “We believed psychosocial aid was essential to helping people leave fears behind, recover and rebuild their lives.”

Nur Aini says Riki’s progress has been dramatic since he received psychosocial support from the Red Cross. He’s playing and mingling with friends again.

Riki is also back at school and says he enjoys studying Math. “I want to be a mechanic when I grow up,” he said, smiling.

For other survivors, recovery has been slower.  Syamsuriah, age 55, was paralysed from the waist down as a result of injuries suffered during the earthquake.  She has been under Red Cross care ever since, including intensive medical services and  regular counselling sessions.

“The Red Cross often comes to see me, to check on my condition,” said Syamsuriah. Despite her physical disabilities and challenges, she feels that she is gradually getting better and that the counselling sessions are helping her forget her horrific experience during the earthquake and better cope with the aftermath.

Since the earthquake, the Indonesian Red Cross, with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, has reached more than 4,300 people with psychosocial assistance.