A month ago today, more than 2,000 people were killed and thousands more injured when an earthquake shook Sulawesi and triggered a six-metre high tsunami. Four weeks on, around 35,000 families whose homes have been damaged or severely destroyed are still in need of emergency shelter.

Children remain vulnerable with the risk of disease outbreaks such as measles, diarrhoea and malaria increasing due to lack of clean water and sanitation facilities.

On top of this, with thousands of classrooms destroyed or damaged, almost 200,000 children are missing out on the opportunity to learn and a safe place to play.

These children have lost their homes, schools, neighbourhoods and all that is familiar to them. Take a look at how their lives have been turned upside down by this devastating disaster.
© UNICEF/UN0250148/Veska

"My school is now damaged, I can't go to school anymore,” Aril says. The 11-year-old  is one of the 184,000 students who is at risk of missing out on an education because thousands of classrooms have been severely damaged or destroyed. But temporary learning spaces - supplied by UNICEF - have helped get children like Aril back to their books in the aftermath of the disaster.
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Anisa is only two months old and has already been forced out of her home by this overwhelming disaster. Of the 1.5 million people affected in Sulawesi, over 45,000 are pregnant women. 14,000 of them will give birth in the next three months. These soon-to-be mums are at risk of having unsafe deliveries due to the lack of access to health services, poor shelter and inadequate skilled health workers. We know too many babies die in environments like this. Mothers need access to birthing centres and trained birth attendants who can provide expert advice, supplies and support to ensure these babies have the best chance at life.
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When the earthquake struck, three-year-old Lisa was trapped in a hole in the ground for more than five minutes. According to her mother, Lisa didn’t speak at all in the days following the disaster and just sat quietly all day beside her mother - not touching a single toy or game. “I crawled on my hands and knees to save Lisa,” her mother said. It felt like the world was ending, the land was breaking up and we were trying to save ourselves.” Children like Lisa have received psychosocial support provided by UNICEF to help cope and recover from traumatic experiences.
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Muhamad was eating just jelly while he waited for aid supplies of food to arrive in Palu, Sulawesi. Damaged roads and infrastructure meant it was difficult for aid to get to some of the worst affected areas. On top of this, before the disaster, Central Sulawesi had high rates of malnutrition, stunting children’s growth. These vulnerabilities exacerbate the risk of disease outbreaks for thousands of children, including four-year-old Muhamad. Our UNICEF colleagues will continue working in some of the worst hit areas to ensure that these children can get their lives back on track for a better future.
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Diah bursts into tears whenever someone mentions her cousin Rahmah who died when the tsunami swept through Sulawesi last month. “She couldn’t accept or say that Rahmah had died,” her mother said. The loss and fear that Diah felt was experienced by many children after the recent earthquake and tsunami. Since the disaster, Diah has been playing and receiving support at a UNICEF child protection space. It is an essential place for children to recover after experiencing trauma and loss. Diah said whenever she is at the child protection space, she loves to draw turtles.
© UNICEF/UN0245434/Wilander

Two-year-old Muhamad has lost his home in Palu, Central Sulawesi. Unfortunately, he is not the only one who needs a new shelter and home. A month on, 83,000 people are still displaced - with that number continuing to rise - and around 35,000 families whose homes have been damaged are in urgent need of shelter. Children like Muhamad are at risk of getting ill with access to health facilities limited due to the extensive damage to buildings and other infrastructure.

UNICEF is on the ground:

  • Helping to provide clean water, hygiene promotion, and rehabilitation of toilets and other important infrastructure
  • Reuniting children who have been separated from their family and loved ones because of the disaster
  • Delivering temporary learning spaces and education kits to the affected region so that children can still be educated
© UNICEF/UN0245438/Wilander