Indonesia sends emergency aid to Papua as drought kills 6
August 1, 2023 10:34 PM
Indonesia has sent emergency aid to its easternmost province of Papua, where a drought has killed six people, including a baby, and left thousands without water since June, officials said Tuesday.
Disaster officials blamed the El Nino weather phenomenon generally associated with a rise in global temperatures for the drought and extreme cold weather that has caused crop failures and left many without access to water in the worst-hit Pucak regency in Central Papua.
Adrianus Alla, a senior social affairs ministry official, said in a statement storage depots in the towns of Timika and Lapangan Sinik were empty because "all aid has been distributed".
In total 17.1 tonnes of aid has been sent to the impoverished region, he said, including thousands of packets of instant food and hundreds of tents and blankets.
Alla said the worst-affected areas were difficult to reach because of poor weather conditions.
Indonesia's national disaster mitigation agency (BNPB) said Monday the drought has affected more than 7,500 people.
At least six people died from starvation and dehydration, officials said.
"Every year the disaster happens in the same area but this year it is more extreme, causing some people to die of starvation and several thousand to evacuate," BNPB head Suharyanto, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, told a virtual briefing Monday.
"The area is no longer suitable to be inhabited by people. However, relocating people, especially Papuans who have customs, traditions, and cultural ties to the place, is not easy."
He said the area was only accessible by motorbike, helicopter or plane because of rough terrain and the presence of separatists who have waged a decades-long insurgency against Indonesian rule.
A former Dutch colony, Papua declared independence in 1961 but neighbouring Indonesia took control two years later, promising an independence referendum that was subsequently considered a sham.
Similar droughts hit the region in 2015 and 2019.
The United Nations has warned the world to prepare for the prolonged effects of El Nino, which occurs on average every two-to-seven years with episodes that typically last nine to 12 months.