Flood recovery efforts reveal great divide between rich, poor
Anissa S. Febrina, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Those who are not directly affected by the flood might think the nightmare is over when the waters recede.
But for 22-year-old Yuliati and her neighbors in Pedongkelan, East Jakarta, the uphill struggle has just begun.
On Monday afternoon, she once again took to the streets, singing from car to car, just to make sure she had the money to buy milk for her 4-year-old son.
This time it was the flood that forced her to take up the work she vowed she would never do again.
“When I got married, I never thought I’d ever get stuck back where I started from,” the mother of one said. “But we have to make a living, one way or the other.”
Before the water gushed into her rented house, saturating her belongings, Yuli thought life was not so bad, despite the fact the money her husband brought home every day was only enough for the day’s meal.
Yuli occasionally helped out by doing her more affluent neighbors’ laundry.
Now, four nights in a temporary shelter in Senayan, South Jakarta, seems like heaven for Yuli and her family.
As compared to the fact they are now sleeping in a damp, smelly room and able to take a bath only once in two days.
“In the shelter, we had clean water, a bed and three meals a day. Even music to entertain us,” she said.
Met at the shelter earlier, the mother of one was washing her clothes under a running tap with a wide grin of relief on her face at not having to worry about the milk money.
Met at the intersection near her flooded home later on, she was still smiling but the dark circles under her eyes spoke volumes about the tough time she had been through in the last week.
“We can still rely on the donation posts at subdistrict offices for food, but we have to start making money if we want to pay the rent, buy milk and some clothes,” said the woman who left her hometown in Tegal, Central Java, upon graduating from elementary school.
Yuli collected Rp 20,000 from singing that day, just enough to buy one or two pieces of secondhand clothing.
Her husband, meanwhile, was still busy cleaning up.
“He said he needed a rest before he started selling Aqua (mineral water) again,” Yuli said.
Yuli and her family are second-time flood victims.
After the last major inundation in 2002, it took them a month to get back on their feet.
“I feel more fortunate because my son is not sick. I cannot imagine having to buy medicine at a time like this,” she said.
Some of Yuli’s neighbors had to spend all most all their time watching over their sick children in the hospital.
“I plan to return to my hometown as soon as my daughter gets better. I need a break,” said Rohiyah, also a Pedongkelan resident.
She has been working three different jobs since the flood: housemaid, nurse and street musician like Yuli.
Although it has been said the rich and poor suffered alike in the flood, recovery efforts reveal a great divide .
After days of driving rain and swelling rivers, those living in flood-prone locations are not taking any chances.
“We had just finished cleaning the house when suddenly the water level rose again Sunday afternoon,” said Moh. Hajirin, a resident of Petogogan, South Jakarta.
Hajirin and his family decided to leave their home and belongings unattended.
“If we stayed, we were only going to be stressed out every time there were dark clouds in the sky,” he said. “If only we had the money to move someplace else. This area is cursed, no one will buy our house, even if we ask for less than the market price.”
Many of the flood victims are in desperate need of reassurance they will be safe after losing most of their belongings.
Soca Simanjuntak, a resident of Kemang Pratama housing complex in Bekasi, has had firsthand experience of the trauma, loss and frustration that goes with flooding.
“The security guards in our complex warned us to remain on alert because the water might rise again.”
“My neighbors have parked their cars on higher ground and I have piled up my things to stop them from getting wet again,” Soca said.
She could not sleep until 3 a.m. on Monday, crossing her fingers there would be no more rain.
Only the passage of time can resolve the lingering trauma for Soca and other people affected by the flood.
The media may have stopped airing or printing news about the flood, but, guess what, it is not over yet.