The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received updated information regarding the affected villages where 113 people died of starvation with associated illnesses in 2009. The AHRC has reported in AHRC-HAC-006-2009 on 16 September 2009 asking for immediate action for the affected seven districts in order to ensure their right to food, the lack of which threatens their right to life every year. Despite of government promises, only some of those areas have received food assistance whereas other areas have yet to receive anything at all. Above all, basic infrastructure and agricultural system have not been improved which is the most primary element to guarantee food security in Papua. The AHRC is deeply concerned that failure of harvest will contribute to continuous hunger in the affected areas.
BRIEF INTRODUCTION OF CASE:
In September 2009 the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) reported the starvation deaths of approximately 113 people in Yahukimo, Papua province, Indonesia. The deaths started in January 2009 and continued throughout the year with little government intervention or support for the villagers who were struggling to survive after a devastating crop failure which further aggravated their existing food insecurity.
Even before this disaster, the situation in 2005 saw 55 people dying from starvation in the same area and the government’s continued denial that these deaths were caused due to starvation. Instead, the government avoided their responsibilities under the domestic law guaranteeing right to food of all people, the Act of the Republic of Indonesia Number 7 of 1996 on food, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) which the government ratified in 2006.
Due to the attention of the media, civil society and international society, the administrative authority admitted the deaths resulted from the lack of food and promised to provide food and medical subsidies to all affected areas.
Local administration has allegedly distributed rice subsidies to five out of the seven affected Districts; Bomela District (600 kilograms), Suntamon District (700 kilograms), Langda District (1.4 tons), Walma and Pronggoli. In addition, Nipan District where around forty villagers allegedly died of starvation also received 1.5 tons of rice and two other districts — Ubahak and Anggruk – received food aid. Whereas no medical aid had distributed to the affected areas and no aid has reached some affected districts such as Heryakpini so far.
Langda District received only 1.4 tons of rice which was to be distributed amongst 6000 villagers. This equated to around 0.23 kilograms of rice each, which is woefully inadequate for the need, meaning that the subsidies lasted for three days and that people were forced to forage in the forest to find sustenance.
In 2009 after accepting the fact that the main cause of 113 villagers’ death was due to starvation, the Yahukimo Deputy Regent reportedly promised that the local government would provide food subsidies for people in Yahukimo from January 2010. However, not only are the food subsidies insufficient, but also has the process is prolonged. In addition to that, the medical assistance has never been distributed to-date.
The government authority is expressing the difficulty of aid delivery due to lack of infrastructure such as transportation in those areas, which has been repeated since 2005 when the villagers in Yahukimo province confronted food insecurity and starvation deaths.
Human rights organisations working in the area has called not only for the government to distribute food subsidies and medical supplies, and also for the government to undertake research into the food scarcity in Yahukimo so as to determine adequate long-term measures to prevent the annual occurrence of starvation deaths. However, to-date there has been no response from the government on this issue.
The AHRC has reported the issue of food insecurity in Papua in its written submission for coming UN Human Rights Council session.
Hunger Alert Programme (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Asian Human Rights Commission (email@example.com)