Indonesia: Economic ruin haunts volcano victims

Mount Merapi volcano.

Hundreds of thousands of victims of the Mount Merapi volcano eruption in central Java face economic and social destruction unless the government carries out a comprehensive recovery plan to help them.

By November 9, the Data Communications Centre from the health ministry has put the death toll from the October 26 eruption at 168 people, with 1105 injured and 279,779 evacuated.

In solidarity with the victims, the Indonesian Poor People’s Union (SRMI) has set up disaster relief centres in eight districts: Mungkid, Salam, Ngluwar, Salaman, Muntilan, Mertoyu, Srumbung and Borobudur.

After visiting SRMI disaster relief centres, Agus Priyono said: “One of the worst impacts of the eruption is the destruction of people’s livelihood; the land cannot be used to grow plants and economic activity virtually stops.

“Without recovery effort by the government, especially in infrastructure — road, bridges, irrigation, etc — and the replacement of destroyed crops, many people will fall into poverty.”

SRMI relief centre coordinator Wahyu said the centres have not received adequate aid from the government, but government managed relief centres are well-stocked.

The government has tried to centralise refugee shelter and aid distribution, but the refugees are spread out.

Magelang municipality has recorded the highest number of refugees from the volcano eruption, with 82,944 refugees by November 8.

Priyono said: “In the relief centre in Gondosuli village that shelters 200 refugees and is located near the 20 kilometre volcano danger zone has so far only been given a kilogram of rice and a package of instant noodles for each family.”

The centre has also received some aid, in the form of rice, from a nearby Catholic Church. Activists and peasant groups in an unaffected area nearby have donated agricultural produce and vegetables.

“They need children and baby food, because most food donated has been for adults”, said Priyono.

Goods badly needed include foodstuffs, mineral water, baby products including diapers, and soap and detergent.

The SRMI is managing relief centres in eight districts and is also carrying out a “one-house-for-two-refugee-families” program to provide more fair distribution of aid to volcano victims.

The SRMI has carried out this program in three villages, involving about 450 people.
The SRMI disaster relief centre in Sedayu village is sheltering about 300 people.

Locals near the eruption who have been able to stay in their own houses have also suffered significant losses and should also receive aid.

Although the volcano appears to have calmed, as of November 9 refugees were still not allowed to return due to the threat of a new eruption.

[Reprinted from Donations to the SMRI relief work can be sent to Bank: (Bank Central Asia) BCA; Branch: KCP BCA Tebet Barat; Account holder: Tejo Priyono; Account Number: 436 149 72 14. Transfer confirmation can be obtained from A J Susmana at +62 817 654 6427. Inside Indonesia, aid in the form of food, medicines, clothes and other goods can be delivered to the Berdikari Online office at: Jl Tebet Dalam 2G no. 1, Jakarta Selatan 12810, ph/fax: 021 835 4513.]