INDONESIA: In response to the ongoing drought disaster in Central Papua, the Vice President of Indonesia, Ma’ruf Amin, who also serves as the Chairman of the Special Autonomy Acceleration Agency for Papua (BP3OKP), has announced a two-week extension to the emergency response period, which was initially set to end on next Monday (7 Aug).
“We have agreed to extend the emergency response for an additional two weeks. During this period, we will evaluate the situation again,” stated Ma’ruf during a press briefing at his official residence on Wednesday (2 Aug).
Six people died due to the drought disaster in Central Papua
Six people have died due to the drought disaster that hit Lambewi and Agandugume districts in Puncak Regency, Central Papua. Among them, one was a child.
They died after experiencing weakness, diarrhea, high fever, and headaches. Meanwhile, according to data from the Indonesian Social Affairs Ministry, 7,500 individuals have been affected by the drought, leading to hunger due to crop failure.
Drought disasters in two districts of Puncak Regency are an annual phenomenon occurring from May to July. This phenomenon is characterized by hail and frost, causing root crops to rot. The situation is exacerbated by the effects of the El Nino phenomenon, which began in early June 2023.
The Acting Director of Disaster Victim Protection at the Ministry of Social Affairs, Adrianus Alla, stated, “The hail phenomenon in early June caused the local crops, particularly root crops which are staple food, to wither and rot. Subsequently, there was no rain, leading to drought for the local crops,” as quoted from AntaraNews.
Struggles of aid distribution in Central Papua’s challenging terrain
One of the major obstacles in providing assistance to the affected regions is the challenging terrain, as the only feasible distribution route is by air. However, weather conditions have hindered the transportation of relief supplies.
The government is actively seeking alternative distribution methods to ensure that the affected communities do not have to carry the aid packages themselves.
In response to the crisis, the Indonesian government has dispatched significant aid to the region.
The Head of the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB), Lieutenant General Suharyanto, and the Minister of Human Development and Culture, Muhadjir Effendy, handed over logistics and equipment, on Wednesday (2 Aug), including 50 tons of rice, ready-to-eat meals, packaged food, milk, and other essential items.
Additionally, they provided tents, blankets, mattresses, foldable beds, clothing for children and adults, refugee tents, electric generators, and off-road motorcycles.
The aid was handed over to representatives of the drought-affected residents at the Cargo Terminal, Mozes Kilangin Airport, Timika.
The assistance will be flown to Agandugume District, Puncak Regency, using a Cessna 208 Caravan aircraft with a carrying capacity of up to 900 kilograms.
To further assist the affected communities, the Indonesian National Police (Polri) has sent humanitarian aid consisting of 5 tons of high-quality rice and essential goods (sembako).
Furthermore, 1,500 jackets have been provided to communities in areas heavily impacted by extreme weather conditions.
In a press release by the Papua Regional Police, it was stated that the delivery of humanitarian aid was carried out on the orders of the Chief of the Indonesian National Police, General Listyo Sigit Prabowo.
The Head of Public Relations of Papua Regional Police, Commissioner Ignatius Benny, mentioned that assistance from the police has already begun distribution on Thursday.
Ministry of Social Affairs’ strategic food reserves initiative for long-term food security
Addressing the long-term needs of the region, the Ministry of Social Affairs plans to construct several food reserves, or “lumbung pangan” in local terms, in Agandugume, Sinak, and Kuyawage districts.
These reserves will store staple crops such as taro, potatoes, corn, and other locally consumed items, along with raising pigs for breeding and sustenance. The initiative aims to create a stable food supply during the winter months and potential future crises, ensuring rapid aid distribution.
The challenging geographical conditions in some districts of Central Papua have made it difficult for the local government to access and distribute aid.
As a result, citizens in the Agandugume district must walk for two days and one night to reach the Sinak district, where assistance is provided.
The government is working to find solutions to improve accessibility and facilitate aid distribution to remote regions.
The Chairwoman of the People’s Representative Council of the Republic of Indonesia (DPR RI), Puan Maharani, has called for sustained support to address the recurring issue of famine in the Puncak Regency.
She stressed the importance of a collaborative effort from all stakeholders in Indonesia to assist those affected by the extreme weather conditions in Papua.