High-intensity rainfall in North Luwu District, South Sulawesi on 13 July 2020 produced flash floods throughout the district, forcing 14,000 people to flee their homes in search for higher ground.

“I was cooking at the Regency’s Public Kitchen, and my phone kept ringing. They told me that the flash floods hit most of the areas of North Luwu,” said Indah Putri Indriani, Regent of the North Luwu Regency. 

“I have never seen anything like this. The water was flowing extremely fast, in waves too. According to the elders, the last time we had flash floods like this was 30 years ago,” said Besse A. Parfangi, Head of Social Affairs Department, North Luwu Regency.

“I was so shocked when I saw the waters, I rushed back home to check on my family and neighbours,” said Sulfa Harbi, Head of Protection and Social Security, Unit, Social Affairs Department, North Luwu Regency.

On top of the COVID-19 pandemic, North Luwu Regency has to face flash floods that destroyed houses, damaged several paddy fields, and also covered main roads with mud and debris. As of 30 April 2021, approximately 600 people still live at temporary shelters.

Many people not only lost their houses but also lost their incomes.

Indah Putri Indriani, Besse A. Parfangi, and Sulfa Harbi are the “three musketeers” in North Luwu Regency, leading the COVID-19 and flash floods response, recovery, and reconstruction efforts in the Regency.

Great role models, strong and fearless women figures to millions of others.

“Collaborative efforts are paramount when dealing with both natural and man-made disasters, not only within the Regency but also with the regional and national level as well as the international community,” said Indah Putri Indriani, Regent of the North Luwu Regency. 

“Under the leadership of Ibu Indah, we set up task forces for both COVID-19 and flash floods response. Then soon came IOM, who supported us with key training, the Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) assessment tool and the Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM),” said Besse A. Parfangi, Head of Social Affairs Department, North Luwu Regency.

For North Luwu Regency, every layer of society contributed to reducing disaster impact. There was real cooperation between government (local, regional and national), intergovernmental organizations, and non-government agencies, such as the private sector, and NGO. Most importantly, the role of women in the disaster response, recovery, and reconstruction efforts were quite significant and they have been active in rebuilding their communities.

“Community disaster resilience is key to withstand and recover from adversities and transform them into opportunities. It has also become a key policy issue, which is being embraced by the North Luwu Regency,” said Sulfa Harbi, Head of Protection and Social Security, Unit, Social Affairs Department, North Luwu Regency.

“My husband could no longer work so I have to support him. One of the volunteers helped me recover my sewing machine from the floods. Even now we are still living in the temporary shelter, I have started a modest clothing alterations workshop with this one machine,” said Ruth,  affected community, Temporary Shelter of Jemaat Rama Reda.

“I need to quickly adapt when facing adversities and grab onto any opportunities fast. When IOM conducted the entrepreneur training, I’m one of the firsts who registered,” said Sitti, affected community, Temporary Shelter of FMBB.

Ruth and Sitti are among 30 women at the temporary shelter who received training from IOM on basic entrepreneurship skills. Through the training, participants were given the challenge to create a sustainable  business plan.

“After the entrepreneurship training, our Office will later connect these women with the Small & Medium Enterprises and Cooperative Office for further training and capital assistance,” said Sulfa Harbi, Head of Protection and Social Security, Unit, Social Affairs Department, North Luwu Regency.

“Being a strong and great leader has nothing to do with gender. Both men and women can be one when there are no barriers from cultural values, religious beliefs, and social assumptions,” said Indah Putri Indriani, Regent of the North Luwu Regency.

Our gratitude and thanks goes to the authorities and local communities in North Luwu Regency whose support and engagement has enabled IOM to achieve these results. IOM's COVID-19 and flash floods relief efforts is supported through generous funding from the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO).