Indonesia

Indonesia: Earthquake creates a further 2,000 poor families in Sleman

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Sri Wahyuni, The Jakarta Post, Sleman

As many as 2,000 families in the Yogyakarta regency of Sleman have become poor as a result of the May 27, 2006, earthquake, increasing the total number of poor families in the regency to 62,518.

The statistics were announced at a press conference held in Sleman over the weekend, which commemorated the first anniversary of the devastating quake.

Head of Sleman's Manpower and Transmigration Office, Kriswanto, said this figure came from the results of a recent survey conducted by the regency's committee for poverty eradication.

According to Kriswanto, the loss of homes, employment and sources of income were among the main contributing factors to the increase in Sleman residents living in poverty.

"Although it was a qualitative survey, it still gives us an indication of how the earthquake has affected people's lives in Sleman," Kriswanto said.

As many as 50,000 of Sleman's total population of around 900,000 are now unemployed.

An integrated program, involving all sectors of development, has been introduced in the regency, especially in the worst-hit districts of Prambanan, Brebah, Kalasan, Depok and Gamping.

"In the economic sector, for example, we have rebuilt traditional markets, revived small and medium enterprises and reduced the unemployment rate through various skills-training programs," head of Sleman's Regional Development Planning Body (Bappeda) Suyanto said.

Head of Sleman's Trade, Industry and Investment Office, Nogati Sri Karyati, said his office had been active in involving the public in a brick-manufacturing program in Jogotirto village, Berbah district.

Some 40 families in Jogotirto village that were badly affected by the quake were collectively given a grant of Rp 35 million and a soft loan of Rp 15 million to produce bricks, thus creating new jobs in the region.

"We aim to produce at least one million bricks. So far we have produced 970,000 bricks and the business is running quite smoothly," he said.

Nogati said other programs have been initiated to help earthquake survivors with economical revival. Some programs provide survivors with a revolving fund, production tools and training sessions on product quality improvements and marketing.

"Recently, in a bid to attract more buyers and investors we organized an exhibition, which showcased various handicrafts and industrial products."

The earthquake that rocked Yogyakarta and parts of Central Java last year heavily damaged as many as 22,000 houses in Sleman.

Only 293 houses have yet to be rebuilt, as they are at the center of land disputes. This means owners are not eligible to obtain building licenses; a prerequisite for survivors in order to qualify for a Rp 15 million reconstruction grant provided by the government to rebuild damaged homes.

Some of the homeowners involved in the land disputes, for example, built on wedhi kengser areas (buffer areas of a river) or land that was not legally theirs.

"We will make sure that all survivors' homes will be rebuilt," said Yuni Zafria, head of Sleman's Housing and Regional Infrastructure Office.

Meanwhile, on the occasion of the first anniversary of the earthquake, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a message to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Saturday.

In his message Abe noted with satisfaction that the Japanese cooperation had contributed to the early recovery of the affected areas in Yogyakarta.

He conveyed his determination to further develop longstanding friendly relationship between the two countries.