Sun, Jun 11, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Some Indonesia quake survivors say they lack food

NO PROVISIONS In one village, survivors said they knew aid supplies were abundant but they were only receiving enough to make one meal every day


Cramped in a single tent sheltering 41 people, survivors of last month's Indonesian earthquake at this hamlet complain they receive only one meal a day with assistance still slow to fully flow here two weeks after the disaster.

"We don't know how much longer we have to endure this situation," said a weary-looking Endang, sitting with four other shabbily dressed women in the blue tarpaulin tent emblazoned with the logo of British charity Oxfam.

Sudimoro is one of many hamlets in Bantul district flattened by the May 27 earthquake on Java island, which left more than 5,800 dead and thousands injured.

Men, women and children from 13 families, including the elderly, are confined in this flimsy tent, which gives little protection from the chill of the night.

The group here receives 2kg of rice, 20 packs of instant noodles, some sugar and cooking oil every day from the local relief coordinating post.

"With this supply, we eat only one meal a day. If we are hungry later in the day or at night we have to fend for ourselves, but we don't have any money to buy anything," said Sarilah, whose husband died in the earthquake.

"Even for 2kg of rice, we have to fight. People have become ill-tempered and we often have quarrels because of this. Why? Because we all need to eat," she said.

The surviving men in these families, who normally did odd jobs such as brick-laying or tilling other people's land, have been idle since the quake.

Two of the men had been recruited by a neighboring family to demolish their shaky house that day for a meager pay of less than US$1.

Apart from the lack of food aid, the survivors also say they are unhappy living in the crowded tent.

"It's cold at night. There should be one tent for one family because we married couples have also biological needs," Sarilah said.

The women are aware that their shortages stem not from a lack of aid but rather difficulties in distribution.

"I know that aid supplies are abundant. We are not asking for more than we need, we just want to have enough to eat," Endang said.

"If you know anyone who wants to help, just tell them to give the assistance to us directly, not through the Posko," she quipped, referring to the local relief coordinating post.

Charlie Higgins, the UN humanitarian coordinator in the quake zone, admitted that what the group had been receiving was "very inadequate" and that some areas had not been well covered by humanitarian assistance.

But he said that the case did not represent an overall picture of the relief operation.

"I believe that most people have received more assistance than this. I'm not happy with this. But I anticipate that the situation will improve," he said.

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