appeal no. 18/97
period covered: 1 February 1998 to 1 May 1998
The haze/smog that choked much of south east Asia cleared with the belated arrival of the 1997 monsoon, but widespread drought in parts of Indonesia is now increasing the risk of a repeat of the phenomenon.
The Federation appeal for CHF 265,000 launched 3 November 1997 sought to assist the Indonesian Red Cross (Palang Merah Indonesia - PMI) in carrying out a health education campaign for the general population. The campaign aims to advise affected families on longer term care for persons with respiratory ailments; monitor the health and food situation in affected communities; and provide early warning in the next dry season. Its overall objective is to safeguard the health of vulnerable groups during times of drought and forest fires by mobilising and training local PMI staff and volunteers to work with the affected population.
Whilst the current security situation in Indonesia is expected to effect the operation, every effort will be made to implement the activities as planned.
Although the smoke haze cleared up over south east Asia with the onset of the Northeast monsoon last November, the relief the rains brought to Sumatra and Kalimantan in Indonesia did not last long. Due to the El Nino weather phenomenon the monsoon season was very short and irregular, bringing only a fraction of the water needed in areas affected by forest fires, where it failed to extinguish fires in the peat layer. The ensuing drought has caused failed harvests and food scarcities.
In February and March satellite photos showed up to 800 "hot spots", representing underground fires. After three dry months, the last week of April brought some rain to Kalimantan. Although the rain was not sufficient to extinguish all the fires or the ongoing peat fires, as of 3 May the number of detectable "hot spots" had been reduced to 60.
The Indonesian government has given fire fighting the highest priority in terms of manpower and material: at present more than 3,000 fire-fighters supported by water bomber planes are deployed in East Kalimantan.
Since the dry season normally lasts from May to October, there may well be a renewed outbreak of fires. In East Kalimantan more than 180,000 hectares have burned this year and around 20,000 hectares are currently affected by fires. The economic impact alone, in terms of lost revenue, is estimated at over USD 3,000,000,000.
The fires have caused renewed haze/smog problems. Airports have been closed and traffic hampered. The numbers affected by respiratory related diseases are rising. The shortage of ground water, brought on by the drought, has forced the population to use surface water, which is polluted by haze dust particles.
ASEAN environment Ministers met in Malaysia in February and in Brunei on 4 April to discuss the implementation of a common haze action plan, based on the realisation that unless the forest fires are brought under control in Kalimantan, they may create haze conditions similar to 1997, with a severe impact on the region and population centres in Malaysia and Singapore.
Red Cross/Red Crescent action
Because of the risk of a repetition of the 1997 haze conditions, the PMI, despite many other priorities in the troubled country, has moved ahead in implementing its Plan of Action according to the appeal.
Training of trainers
The programme relies on a multiplier approach. Staff and volunteers from Chapters and Branches in affected areas have been trained as trainers in six courses given by PMI Headquarters Training Division. These trainers will in turn train Branch volunteers, who will train/inform village cadres.
The Training of Trainers has now been completed. Since the previous Sitrep, the last four courses were held, in East Kalimantan, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan and South Sumatra, training a total of 133 trainers. In associated one day meetings, 100 board members were briefed on the programme and their monitoring and supervision duties.
To date, 38 of 58 Branches have submitted an individual Plan of Action, which includes a Branch budget and a timetable for implementation. Branches have trained 828 branch volunteers and trained/informed 960 village cadres.
Health Education materials
The training curriculum proved to be flexible enough to incorporate extra information: in view of an outbreak of dengue fever in April, a lecture on preventive measures was added.
All mini-posters (146,000), leaflets (109,500) and posters (10,000) have been distributed to the branches involved in this programme. Through simple text and drawings they present information for household level prevention measures and environmental protection. They have been very well received and can be seen everywhere.
The programme is very well accepted by the rural population.