Indonesia’s unique geographic and geologic characteristics, coupled with a large, unevenly distributed population have resulted in innumerable natural disasters. Earthquakes, tsunamis, flash floods, mudslides, forest fires and droughts have given rise to high civilian casualties, mass displacement, loss of livelihoods, property destruction and environmental damage. Of additional concern is the fact that Indonesia has had the highest incidence of avian influenza cases in the world, and the threat of human-to-human transmission leading to a pandemic remains serious.
Several unresolved humanitarian issues, including the consequences of a hot mud volcano in East Java; an incomplete recovery process in Maluku; insecurity in central Sulawesi; humanitarian concerns in Papua; and, pockets of malnutrition and poverty in disaster prone areas are potentially troublesome. In July 2008, Malaysia announced the deportation of large numbers of illegal Indonesian workers causing concern among local governments, as a result of their inability to handle such large caseloads. Challenges in 2009 may come from the presidential and parliamentary elections, during which the increase in fuel and commodity prices could be controversial election topics. Understanding that high fuel prices have negatively influenced the food security of a large segment of the population, OCHA will monitor the situation jointly with other United Nations agencies.
While the Government has improved its overall disaster response capacity in the past few years, its present policy of rapidly decentralizing political power from Jakarta to provincial and local authorities should significantly strengthen response capacity at local levels. To assist in those efforts, OCHA will work with the Government in building up capacities and preparing multi-hazard contingency plans at the provincial and local levels. An inter-agency contingency plan for the country incorporating the cluster approach is in preparation. Further discussions with the Government will guide humanitarian action in case of any major emergencies. OCHA will work with national authorities to reinforce capacities to respond to disasters through trainings, such as the rapid assessment and coordination training modelled after the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination systems, gender mainstreaming, humanitarian reform and civil-military coordination. OCHA will continue supporting the government’s information management efforts ensuring a more efficient response to emergencies.
Many natural disasters tend to be localized, often with enough response capacity being provided by local governments; however, the scale of destruction can rapidly tax local capacities, necessitating further support from the international community. OCHA Indonesia is on standby to provide immediate coordination and emergency response as the need arises. Additionally, the Emergency Response Fund (ERF), which OCHA administers and monitors, will provide maximum flexibility to partners in supporting their emergency response activities.