Famine Hits Penida: And Red Tape Blocks Aid

SEMARAPURA ~ Officials have declared Nusa Penida a disaster area because of the threat of famine in remote areas of the island due to drought, but they cannot release Rp25 million (US$2,500) held in disaster relief funds because a range of regency agencies must first sign off on the plan.

Residents of the island, part of Klungkung regency and off the south-east coast of Bali, where staple food crops are corn and cassava rather than rice, which is not farmed there because of naturally dry conditions and absence of perennial streams, have been unable to harvest since September.

Attempts to grow corn from seedlings sent to the island as aid from the central government failed.

Head of the Klungkung food security and guidance office (KKPP) Ida Kade Arga said a team had been on Nusa Penida on November 3 and 4 to report on food scarcity in the villages of Batukandik, Batumadeg, Sekartaji, Bunga Mekar and Klumpu.

“We must recognise that Nusa Penida is in danger of famine,” Arga said. “The availability of water is critically low and our team found one major well was empty.”

KKPP had Rp25 million in relief funds which in the circumstances should be released to help the islanders after required advice from other Klungkung agencies. KKPP had already applied for release of the funds following its own investigation.

The agency says depleted availability of water is affecting 47.83 percent of poor households on Nusa Penida where drought has badly impacted on 459 hectares of corn, 292 hectares of beans and 161 hectares of peanuts.

Supplies of rice intended for poor households were not having the desired effect (of assisting the destitute) since on equity grounds many villages not threatened by famine had applied for and received relief rice supplies.

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