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Cash-for-work programme aims to bring relief to Mt Sinabung evacuees

A government-funded social programme offering temporary jobs for the evacuees affected by Mt Sinabung's eruptions in Sumatra is aiming to ease their plight.

KABANJAHE, Northern Sumatra: After remaining dormant for four centuries, Mount Sinabung in northern Sumatra, Indonesia, roused to life in September last year.

Last weekend, an eruption shot hot ash and rocks into the air claiming 16 lives.

To date, the now-active volcano has displaced thousands. Some 30,000 are being temporarily housed in 42 evacuation shelters.

To alleviate the stress and tension faced the by the evacuees, a government-funded social programme offering temporary jobs has been trying to keep up their spirits.

The "Cash-for-Work" programme not only keeps their minds actively focused, but evacuees are also benefiting psychologically and financially from it.

The programme allows for one person per family to work in exchange for 50,000 rupiah or around US$4-5 a day.

They take up work building sanitation facilities, evacuation routes or are engaged in tasks to simply keep their surroundings at the shelter where they live clean and tidy. Each worker's attendance is recorded and the workers are paid every 10 days.

"Each shelter coordinator must write up a list of daily job activities such as cleaning the surrounding area or doing work on someone's farmland,” said Rudy Erick Ginting, a coordinator at the Advent Church Shelter. “The point is to keep the evacuees active."

Many of the evacuees feel despair knowing their homes and belongings have been damaged in the eruptions.

After months of living in shelters without work, many of the evacuees have begun to suffer from stress and depression.

"At least, it's a way to get some allowance because it's stressful if we don't work,” said evacuee Martina Burusembiring. “Working at our village was better. Here we work for only four hours a day and get paid 50,000 rupiah. Of course, if we work on our farms, we can earn more; but, what can we do now?”

The government has allocated over US$2 million since the programme’s launch last December.

With the scheme in its second month, the Indonesian disaster agency has taken measures to prevent the funds from falling into corrupt hands.

"The money was first sent through the facilitator, and then distributed to the evacuees,” said Dody Ruswandi, Emergency Response Preparedness Deputy Chief, National Disaster Mitigation Agency. “Now all the money will be put into the bank, and we'll convince people that their money is there -- and they can check on their own."

So far, almost 10,000 families in 42 shelters have taken part.

The next development of the programme will include vocational training.

The scheme will still be available for up to two months after evacuees return home as a way to help them rebuild their lives.

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