Written Answers. - Humanitarian Relief.

Jack Wall


27 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the continuing reports that Indonesian military authorities are involved in preventing church authorities in West Papua/Irian Jaya getting humanitarian relief to those suffering from drought and famine in West Papua; and if he will make a statement on the state of relief efforts to the area. [8074/98]

The Government is aware of disturbing reports from Irian Jaya-West Papua that the Indonesian authorities are interfering with the activities of church groups and hindering the distribution of humanitarian relief supplies in the area. The matter has been raised with partners in the European Union and an approach will be made to the Indonesian authorities should it be considered appropriate.

The Deputy will be aware that humanitarian issues in Irian Jaya have been of concern since April last year. The entire island of New Guinea, which is shared by Irian Jaya-West Papua and by

Papua New Guinea, has been severely affected by drought which has led to widespread malnutrition. According to UN figures, an estimated 10 per cent of the population throughout the island have been affected.

A number of international agencies have been working with the local population to provide humanitarian relief. In particular, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs are running ongoing programmes throughout the island to meet the needs of the most vulnerable. I understand from recent ICRC reports that the humanitarian situation of the population varies widely from region to region depending on the climatic conditions, altitude, remoteness of the province and local coping strategies. Aid agencies are, therefore, concentrating on providing the most appropriate help within each community, including emergency food aid distributions, medical care, food security programmes and the provision of safe water supplies.

The Government has provided a total of £150,000 to support these programmes over the past four months. The majority of these fund, £125,000, have been specifically earmarked for use in Irian Jaya. The funds have been channelled through the UNDHA and the ICRC and I understand that both programmes are going well.