SurfAid International providing medical attention in Indonesia after tsunami

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Malibu resident Vic Calandra, a member of SurfAid, says the organization is focusing on delivering aid to smaller, isolated islands that might get overlooked.

By Bridget Graham-Gungoren/Special to The Malibu Times

A Malibu resident and member of SurfAid International, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to disease control and education in the Mentawai Islands in West Sumatra, Indonesia, is working to fund relief efforts and raise money to help victims of the tsunami.

Vic Calandra, board member of SurfAid International, lives in Malibu and has traveled off and on to Indonesia for the past 15 years. He has been a member of SurfAid for four years. Calandra said SurfAid is focusing on Nias and other smaller isolated islands off West Sumatra that might get overlooked with large-scale efforts focused on larger disaster areas.

“SurfAid International will be focusing its efforts on the 20,000 people residing in Nias and the surrounding islands off of West Sumatra and [Banda] Aceh,” he said.

Calandra said the organization’s office in Padang is approximately 350 miles from “ground zero” and was unaffected by the earthquake and tsunami. “What is needed urgently is to get the sick and injured back to Padang where at least 2,000 beds are ready‚Ķ it has been eight days, every minute is vital.”

“The International Red Cross has reported 272 casualties and there is an urgent need for food, clothing, clean water, and medicines,” explained Calandra regarding the condition in Nias and in the surrounding islands. SurfAid has commissioned charter boats that are scheduled to leave Padang daily with aid supplies. Medical teams will arrive in Padang throughout the week. The emergency medical teams will include seven doctors, six nurses, five community facilitators, a water engineer and a malaria control project officer. “Now that essentially all regional infrastructure has been destroyed, boat access from Padang is of the utmost importance and can make a huge difference,” Calandra said.

Calandra said that initial funding has come from the private sector such as Quicksilver and Indies Trader Company, but that additional funding is needed to continue the charter boat deliveries of medical supplies and disease prevention. “We need to get aid to these people. They have received little attention because they are in hard to access places.” Due to inaccessibility of some of the areas of Nias, additional assessments still need to be completed to ensure maximum aid is distributed. Calandra said that requires funding, and is reaching out to the community.

SurfAid International was founded in 2000 as a nonprofit in New Zealand by Dr. Dave Jenkins after a surfing trip to Mentawai Islands brought to his attention the high mortality rate of the people who live there due to disease. The organization was established for communicable disease prevention such as malaria control, as well as access to immunizations. In addition to the Padang office, offices for the organization are in the U.S., New Zealand and Australia.

Calandra said field reports are being filed on a regular basis and updated on SurfAid International’s Web site on the status of the organization’s relief efforts.

Those who wish to donate to SurfAid can send a check payable to “SurfAid International Disaster Relief,” Surf Aid, 555 Second Street, Encinitas, CA 92024 or visit www.surfaidinternational.org.