1998 NCC News Archives

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CWS Responds to Crisis in Indonesia With
$2.5 Million Food for Work Program

Who We Are

CWS works in more than 70 countries, including the U.S., in disaster relief, human development and refugee assistance. It is a ministry of the National Council of Churches, the nation's preeminent ecumenical organization which includes 34 Protestant and Orthodox member communions with a combined membership of 52 million.

How to Help

CHURCH WORLD SERVICE, Attn. Indonesia Emergency Food Program, #976909, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515. Phone pledges or credit card donations: 1-800-762-0968.

NEW YORK, August 18, 1998 ---- To address the crisis in Indonesia wrought by drought, forest fires and economic and political turmoil, Church World Service (CWS) is implementing a comprehensive food-for-work program funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

With the $2.5 million USAID grant, CWS will work with its longtime partner the Communion of Churches in Indonesia-Sulsera (CCI) to provide rice to 27,300 persons (7,500 families) in central Sulawesi for a year, supplying 45 percent of their caloric needs and freeing up resources so people can purchase other food items such as eggs and milk.

In exchange, recipients will repair terraces, roads and bridges, build water conservation systems and plant trees, all of which will strengthen the rural infrastructure to increase food security. About one-third of the beneficiary families will also receive seeds and tools.

"No country in the world has experienced such a rapid deterioration of its economy than Indonesia," said the Rev. Larry Tankersley, CWS Southern Asia Director. "It's shocking. There is a return of conditions once prevalent in the 1960s. People are desperate."

Illustrations of need are everywhere. A Jakarta taxi driver reports that rice costs one-fourth of his $1-a-day earnings. The only protein many villagers can afford is one egg a day per family.

The World Bank estimates that up to 50 million people will have difficulty maintaining a minimal level of food intake in the coming months. By the end of the year, fully 40 percent of the population is expected to be living below the poverty line, Rev. Tankersley reported.

Indonesia's economic and monetary problems are partly to blame for the current crisis, but forest fires and El-Niņo-related drought in rural areas are worsening the situation.

Sulawesi, one of Indonesia's five largest islands, has been particularly hard hit. Farmers accustomed to exporting rice to the rest of Indonesia now must import it for their own survival. The price of rice has doubled in the last three months alone and people cannot afford to buy rice at local markets.

The 12-month CWS emergency food program will increase food supplies through rice importation until the next harvest and ensure that children under 5 and lactating mothers do not become malnourished. Indications show that the most vulnerable populations will be at highest risk from now until the annual November and December planting season, and continue to be at risk until the harvest in April 1999.

Indonesia's churches are sponsoring complementary projects, such as the community-based free food distribution program in Tana Toraja, Sulawesi. This small program is funded through weekly church collections and reaches about 100 families a month, regardless of religious affiliation.

Indonesia is the world's fourth largest nation with more than 200 million people. It is very religiously diverse. It contains the world's largest Islamic population and Asia's largest Protestant population. "Indonesia is one of the few places in the world you can go and experience five major living religions side by side," Rev. Tankersley said.

CWS is seeking $300,000 in denominational support for this appeal. Because of the precedent-setting nature of the U.S. government, support from CWS member denominations is crucial, said Linda Hartke, CWS Director of Operations.

Action by Churches Together (ACT) International members are supporting the CCI's efforts as part of an overall appeal (ASID81, Indonesia - Drought Crisis and Resettlement for $436,239).

-end-

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