Indonesia: UN food agency relief operation to help 2.1 million gripped by poverty

Indonesia: UN food agency relief operation to help 2.1 million gripped by poverty

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today launched a $65-million relief operation to help more than one million internally displaced people in Indonesia competing with a growing urban poor underclass for survival.

The WFP operation, running through 31 December 2003, is intended to help 2.1 million Indonesians who face the highest risk of hunger and malnutrition because of the spiralling costs of food, petrol and other commodities during a period of slow economic recovery.

The programme will enable 1.5 million urban poor to buy subsidized rice at a fraction of the normal price, and will also give rice to 300,000 internally displaced people (IDP) throughout the country, as well as blended food, a vital nutritional supplement, to children under two years of age and their mothers.

Mohamed Saleheen, WFP Country Director for Indonesia, warned that assistance to the internally displaced has taken on a new urgency in Indonesia now that a study by the agency has detailed the gravity of their situation.

According to the study, poverty levels among the IDPs are three times higher than the average rate in Indonesia of 19 per cent and the approximately 26,000 IDPs surveyed have an average unemployment rate of 54 per cent. In Aceh province alone, unemployment is 100 per cent for IDPs.

"The IDP wave has risen in just the last three years," noted Mr. Saleheen. "That means that we still have an opportunity to fix these problems before they harden into a second generation. Once that happens, it is almost impossible to return people to the sort of stable, self-reliant existence they had before they left their homes."