UN World Food Programme

Saudi Arabia donates US$5 million to Indonesia quake relief

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will donate US$5 million to support the earthquake relief and recovery efforts in Indonesia.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will donate US$5 million to support the earthquake relief and recovery efforts of two levels of the Indonesian government and several humanitarian and United Nations agencies, including a USUS$2 million grant to help fund the WFP’s cash-strapped operations in the earthquake zones of Central Java and Yogyakarta.

For WFP, the US$2 million donation comes a critical time for the agency’s earthquake programme, which was in jeopardy of being shut down

The announcement was made today at a press conference in Jakarta hosted by WFP Special Ambassador Abdul Aziz Arrukban and Mohamed Abdul Rahman Al Mugeteeb of the Saudi Arabian government’s Ministry of Finance.

The decision to donate the funds came near the end of a five-day visit by a six-member Saudi delegation to Jakarta and Yogyakarta, where Ambassador Arrukban and delegation members attended an audience with Yogyakarta Governor Sri Sultan Hemengkubowono and inspected the damage caused by the earthquake that struck the region on 27 May.

Strengthening ties

During the audience on 12 July, the Saudi officials delivered a US$500,000 cheque to the Sultan to assist the provincial government’s earthquake recovery efforts and announced that a similar sum would be handed over to the central Government of Indonesia for the same purpose.

“We are pleased to be able to offer some help to the Indonesia authorities and especially to all the people who were victims of this terrible earthquake and who clearly need some help in rebuilding their lives and livelihoods,” Ambassador Arrukban told the press conference.

Saudi official Al Mugeteeb echoed that view, adding that he hoped the donation “would help to strengthen the long and deep historical connection between the people of Indonesia and the citizens of Saudi Arabia.”

For WFP, the US$2 million donation comes a critical time for the agency’s earthquake programme, which was in jeopardy of being shut down, or at least sharply scaled back, due to lack of funds. Until the Saudi contribution, WFP had received only US$800,000 in contributions to cover the US$5.3 million cost of the operation for a six-month period stretching from last June to next November.

Funding the food pipeline

“We’re currently providing supplementary food rations to 120,000 earthquake victims in the nine hardest-hit sub-districts of Bantul and Klaten,” explained Bradley Busetto, WFP Deputy Country Director for Indonesia.

“But our food pipeline was assured only until the end of July, after which it would have been difficult to maintain without additional funding.”

To run the six-month Yogyakarta emergency operation, WFP has been forced to divert food from other programmes in Indonesia, where it is sorely needed.

But that also entailed problems due to the same problem of lack of finances.

“All our Indonesia programmes combined require US$160 million for 2006 and 2007,” noted Busetto, “but so far we’re US$120 million short of reaching that target.”