CRS Indonesia Emergency Update 8 Jun 2000
Earthquakes off the coast of Sumatra:
Catholic Relief Services staff is in Bengkulu and will help provide food, building materials and medicine to affected families.
The June 4th earthquake and several strong aftershocks rocked Sumatra Island. The earthquake's epicenter was beneath the Indian Ocean, approximately 70 miles west of Bengkulu, a province that is home to 1.2 million people. The agency is working with Caritas Indonesia and local partners to coordinate relief assistance as needed.
Catholic Relief Services partner, Pansos-Social Institution of the Diocese of Palembang, located in Bengkulu has provided information that at least 107 people have died and another 1,052 were injured. Several buildings, including schools and government establishments, were leveled to the ground. Currently, the airport is open and power has been restored. However, many water pipes were destroyed and have not been restored.
Searchers continue to dig through the rubble for additional survivors. Thousands of people have fled their homes and injured people have overwhelmed hospitals. The most affected areas are in the island of Enggano in southern Bengkulu. Approximately sixty-five percent of the homes have been destroyed.
In response to the earthquake, a telegram, sent in Pope John Paul's name by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State, to Bishop Joseph Suwatan, M.S.C., President of the Indonesian Bishops' Conference, reads, "Saddened by news of the tragic earthquake which has caused many victims and great damage in Sumatra, the Holy Father expresses heartfelt sympathy and asks you kindly to convey to the suffering population and civil authorities the assurance of his prayerful closeness. He invokes divine strength and comfort on all affected by this disaster, especially the bereaved families, the injured and homeless. He earnestly hopes that the international community will respond promptly to the urgent needs of the survivors."
Floods in Malaka Barat:
Catholic Relief Services is also responding to floods that have affected 90 percent of the population in Malaka Barat and others in makeshift settlements surrounding Betun town. Nearly 130 deaths have been reported and thousands of the local populations have been evacuated from their homes. The mung bean harvest - a critical source of food and income for the region - has been completely destroyed.
In order to reach those in need, the agency is involved in several activities. Catholic Relief Services staff continues to distribute water and nearly 10,000 daily food rations provided by the United Nations World Food Programme. Additionally, the agency distributed 120 metric tons of rice to seven towns and their surrounding villages. These areas include: Besikama, Weoe, Haitmuk, Wetulan, Boking, Alkani and Lamea.
In Malaka Tengah and Kobalima, Catholic Relief Services has registered approximately 13,500 individuals, providing them with rice and high protein biscuits.
Complementing all these efforts, the agency has also distributed approximately 2,000 non-food items in flood affected areas including tarpaulins, jerry cans and buckets, and blankets.
Ongoing CRS Response to West Timor:
Catholic Relief Services continues to assist refugees living in Belu and Kupang districts in West Timor, Indonesia. During the Spring, about 3,000 internally displaced people returned to East Timor. Over 160,000 people have returned home since October 1999. CRS/Indonesia is currently negotiating with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to provide food assistance to about 45,000 East Timorese refugees still living in West Timor.
Catholic Relief Services recently received a letter from Xanana Gusmao, President of the National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT), an umbrella organization advocating for the independence of East Timor. The letter expressed appreciation of CRS' work assisting 50,000 refugees in West Timor. He writes, "Dr. Ana Gomes of the Portuguese Embassy has spoken very highly of your work and all that you are doing on behalf of the refugee communities; I extend to you my profound gratitude."
Additional Relief Activities:
Recently, Catholic Relief Services continued to distribute food and non-food items (primarily rice, beans, oil, sugar, salt, and family kits including cooking utensils) to an estimated 45,000 people in 93 locations in Belu district.
In camps in Kupang district, Catholic Relief Services is continuing a supplementary feeding program six times each week for approximately 1,500 children under the age of five and for pregnant and nursing women. These recipients receive malnutrition screenings every two weeks. Additional government health program assistance in Kupang area camps, feeding programs providing medicines and referrals for at-risk individuals have decreased the use of the agency's two mobile medical teams.
Catholic Relief Services plans to continue assistance to the refugee population in West Timor over the coming months. The agency signed an agreement with the United Nations World Food Program and High Commissioner for Refugees to expand food distributions to all camps in southern Belu. This decision was based on need and the capability of Catholic Relief Services.
Catholic Relief Services will assume additional responsibilities for health care and water provision in Belu district given the withdrawal of other international non-governmental organizations that had previously provided such assistance.
Catholic Relief Services began operating in Indonesia in 1957 through food distribution programs. Over the years, nearly all resources have been transferred to local organizations for projects in the areas of emergency relief, health, sustainable agriculture and enterprise development.
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