Under an arrangement with the governments of Indonesia and Australia, WFP will exchange the wheat for 27,888 tons of rice to launch a US$90 million programme that will aid pregnant women and nursing mothers, children under the age of five and families surviving on one meal a day. In addition, WFP will support community activities through food-for-work programmes.
"The World Food Programme has returned to Indonesia to assist the victims of drought exacerbated economic crisis and to prevent the current food shortage from developing into a disaster," WFP Country Representative Philip Clarke said.
WFP closed down its aid operations in Indonesia in 1996 because the country's increasingly strong economy enabled the Government to meet food import requirements with its own resources.
The situation has changed dramatically in recent months, however. Drought, blamed on the strongest El Niño weather phenomenon in 50 years, has caused serious crop losses at a time when a regional economic crisis has limited Indonesia's ability to import rice and forced more and more people to live below the poverty line.
WFP and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated in March that rice production would be at least 6.2 percent below the last pre-drought harvest in 1996. Indonesia's rice import requirements for the fiscal year 1998/99 may reach 4.5 million tons, up from 1.5 million tons in 1996/97.
The agencies warned that more than 7.5 million people are likely to experience acute household food shortages during the next 12 months.
WFP will provide assistance over the next 12 months to 5.3 million of the most vulnerable people in the most seriously affected areas of eastern Indonesia. These include Nusa Tenggara Barat, Irian Jaya, portions of the Molukus and Sulawesi, Eastern and Central Kalimantan and portions of Sumatera and Central Java.
"This is a precarious time for many people in Indonesia, but for those least able to defend themselves, it is a time of real crisis," Clarke said. "These are the people who are least able to protect and feed themselves."
The assistance will go to 750,000 people presently surviving on one meal a day and 708,000 pregnant women, nursing mothers and children under the age of five. In addition, of 771,000 participants in food-for-work activities will receive family rations benefiting a total of 3.85 million people.
WFP, which will work with Bulog, Indonesia's national logistics agency, the ministries of Agriculture, Health and Social Affairs and non-governmental organizations as implementing partners, has reopened its main office in Jakarta and plans to open three sub-offices in eastern Indonesia. WFP's emergency operation is coordinated by the Government of Indonesia through Bappenas.
Donors so far have contributed 58 percent of the food WFP seeks for the emergency operation. In addition to the Australian donation, the United States has contributed 8,700 tons of blended food and 33,000 tons of rice, Japan, 40,702 tons of rice, Germany, 13,047 tons of rice, and Norway, 6,167 tons of rice. WFP expects to be fully resourced soon.
For further information, please contact:
Abby Spring, Information Officer
Tel. +62-21 570-9004
Philip Clarke, WFP Representative