United States Sends Aid to Earthquake Victims in Indonesia

Washington – In the wake of the deadly earthquake that struck parts of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is providing $100,000 in emergency assistance.

Mercy Corps, an international humanitarian organization headquartered in Portland, Oregon, will disburse the money. According to a USAID press release, $50,000 will be used for immediate emergency supplies such as food, water, plastic sheets, sleeping mats and other items requested by local governments.

On March 6, a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck about 50 kilometers from Padang, the capital of West Sumatra province. According to news reports, dozens of people died in the disaster and thousands were displaced.

The Indonesian archipelago of some 17,000 islands sits on what is known as the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area of frequent seismic and volcanic activity.

The earthquake especially affected the town of Solok, where according to a preliminary assessment by Mercy Corps, the earthquake destroyed or severely damaged more than 400 houses, 14 schools and 37 businesses. More than 1,700 people have been displaced and currently there is no reliable access to clean water on site.

Mercy Corps has extensive experience working in Indonesia, where it participates in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-funded Emergency Capacity Building Project and operates the Sumatra Healthy Schools Program, which provides nutritional supplements and medical services to students. It provided rapid relief to survivors of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and continues to help more than 423,000 victims rebuild their communities.

The organization is active in more than 35 countries, including Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza, Afghanistan, as well as countries in Latin America and the Balkans.

Mercy Corps spokesman Jeremy Barnicle told USINFO that the organization places special emphasis on working with local people. Of its 525 staff members in Indonesia, around 500 are Indonesians.

Barnicle also said in order to achieve lasting results, Mercy Corps usually involves in its efforts three key elements of the local society: the government, civil society and the business sector.

U.S. Charge d’Affaires John Heffern authorized the $100,000 in aid. He expressed sympathy for the thousands of victims of the devastation and said the rapid response of the provincial and local government of West Sumatra greatly mitigated the suffering of the population.

The U.S. government and the government of Indonesia recently signed several agreements on democratic transition, economic growth, education reform and human services, which will provide $963 million in assistance to Indonesia over the next five years. (See related article.)

The full text of a press release on earthquake aid to Indonesia is available on USAID Web site.

More information on the Mercy Corps is available on the organization’s Web site.