Tuesday, October 18, 2005 Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post, Medan
Around 50,000 earthquake survivors on Nias island are still living in tents and military-style barracks and more than 1,400 children are malnourished despite the millions of dollars in aid earmarked for the area, a study says.
Poor living conditions and food intake meant 1,463 children were found to be suffering from malnutrition, according to the study conducted by the Institute for Study and Policy Advocacy.
The Medan-based institute found tents and barracks spread throughout the Nias and South Nias regencies. Other refugees lived in relative's houses and government barracks.
Their daily situation was getting worse as aid from the government and donors had already run out three months ago, president director Efendi Panjaitan said.
In order to feed the children, the parents worked at anything they could, he said.
"In the past four months, we have found at least 1,463 refugee children suffering from malnutrition. That total number of children we found only in two subdistricts, so we predict that many more children in the island are suffering from malnutrition."
Efendi blamed government agencies for neglecting the situation.
He also regretted that the government and the Aceh and the Nias Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Body (BRR) had been slow to rebuild the area, with important construction projects absent in several areas.
Responding to the study, a spokesman of the North Sumatra provincial government, R.E. Nainggolan, said the administration had not yet received any reports of malnutrition on the island.
He also denied reports that the flow of aid had stopped. The provincial government was still handing out aid to the residents on the island, the latest two weeks ago when the provincial government disbursed 50 kilograms of rice to each refugee family, he said.
The refugee families survived a huge 8.9-magnitude earthquake on Nias in March this year, which left thousands of people dead.