Sadness that Lingers after Flood Recedes

Hundreds of years after the Dutch dug canals to control the flooding in Batavia, flood remains an unsolved problem that affects Jakarta.

Nila (29) carrying her infant son in front of her house which was among those affected by the flood in early 2020. (ACTNews/Gina Mardani)

ACTNews, WEST JAKARTA - "Sorry, this is what it is," said Nila (29) when welcoming ACTNews at her home in early February. We met her, who lives in Semanan Urban VIllage, Kalideres Subdistrict, West Jakarta, when distributing assistance for the Friends of Indonesian Poor Families (SKPI) program in Semanan Urban Village.

Not too far from Semanan River, a 20m2 stands among other cramped houses. She has been living there since she was born. Now, she lives there with nine other family members. It was Nila’s parents’ house in which she now lives with her sister's family.

She looked shy, but she tried to entertain us, her guests, with something she had: the waqf drinking water that she had just received during the rice distribution. She then pushed a wheeled iron bed on which a floor mattress was spread. The cement floor of Nila's house was still quite wet, the remnants of the rain water that entered the house a few hours ago.

The ceilings in Nila’s house have no covering boards. Some of the roof tiles had shifted from its original positions after the 5-meter flood at the beginning of 2020. The foundations of this house had been tilted, causing the walls of the house to be sloped. They can collapse at any time and endanger the occupants inside.

"Yesterday, I borrowed a jack from my neighbor to raise the roof of the house. If not, this house can't be used as a place to live. Where else will we go?” Nila narrated.

Nila told us that the rice assistance that was distributed that day might be only a small portion of aid that helped reducing the burden of her life, but she was very grateful that there were still people who cared about her. "I feel grateful, Alhamdulillah, thank Allah for ACT who gave rice and drinking water like this," said Nila. Tears started running down her cheeks. Every day, Nila scrimps and saves to that her family can eat. She also has to buy drinking water for IDR 6,000 each gallon. Each week, her family needs 1-2 gallons of drinking water.

Every day, Nila and her husband sell fried food at their neighbor’s nasi uduk stall. She even stored the vegetables in her neighbor’s fridge. Now, Nila is the sole breadwinner in her family. Last year, Nila's husband was fired by the factory where he worked. Then he had a motorbike accident, injuring his hands. "Recently, my husband tried to work as a construction worker only for a day because his hands got swollen. The foreman than told him to get some recover first," Nila's tears began to flow.

Nila has to pay for her youngest brother’s education who studies in a private high school IDR 3.5 million. She is working hard to make sure her brother’s education is assisted by the government through the social assistance even though some of the documents needed for the administration were washed away by the flood.

"I want my children to go to school so they’ll have a better fate than their parents and get better degrees," said Nila.

Flooding is still an imminent problem. In Kalideres, the Mookervart Channel, which was built by the Dutch to control flooding, must now face the growing population. []