Indonesia

WFP mission finds "grave" food shortages in Northern Molucca

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ROME - A food assessment mission by United Nations agencies to the strife-torn Moluccas islands of Indonesia has found "grave" food shortages among the tens of thousands of displaced people in the newly formed province of Northern Molucca, officials of the World Food Programme said today.
The WFP mission, led by the agency's Indonesia Country Director, Philip Clarke, and part of a mission led by the UN Resident Coordinator for Indonesia, found that food insecurity in Northern Molucca is reaching "serious proportions" because of the eruption of sectarian violence there and the limited means of access. Residents of Northern Molucca rely almost entirely on food imports, via small seaports, from other parts of Indonesia.

"There are almost 100,000 people in Northern Molucca who have had no regular supply of food since the fighting broke out in November," said Clarke, who concluded the two-day mission to the city of Ambon in nearby Molucca province late Thursday. The Moluccas, a large group of islands situated in the eastern part of Indonesia, are often referred to as the "Spice Islands."

Clarke, who was accompanied by ambassadors from Britain and Egypt and diplomatic representatives from Japan and the Netherlands, and led by the UN Resident Coordinator, warned that because the pattern of fighting in the area is so unpredictable, the numbers of people needing emergency assistance might go much higher. Since November, more than 1,600 people have died in clashes in Northern Molucca alone, plus another 900 or more in the central Moluccas.

WFP has been providing food aid in the form of rice to some 80,000 people caught up in civil strife that has rocked the central and southern Moluccas over the past 12 months. In response, WFP has delivered more than 4,000 metric tonnes of rice since last May.

Because of the new outbreak in fighting, WFP is looking at expanding its emergency food assistance to people in Northern Molucca but will continue assistance to other parts of the Moluccas that remain affected. Two separate week-long WFP assessment missions are currently underway in the region.

The food deliveries to Northern Molucca would have to be made by barge or landing craft from a supply and logistics base in nearby Northern Sulawesi province.

The food assistance to Molucca province is part of a wider WFP operation to distribute rice rations to 6.3 million people in Indonesia for a one-year period ending in June. Plans are underway to continue the food aid operation in Indonesia after June.

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The World Food Programme is the United Nations' front-line agency in the fight against global hunger. In 1999 WFP fed more than 86 million people in 82 countries - more than half were girls and women.

For more information, please contact:

Philip Clarke, WFP Country Director/Jakarta. Tel. +6221-570-9002
Heather Hill-Information Officer, WFP/Rome-Tel. +39-06 6513-2253
Christiane Berthiaume-Information Officer/WFP Geneva-Tel. +41-22-9178564
Abby Spring-Information Officer/WFP New York-Tel. +1-212-9635196