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Update no 00/02 on ICRC activities in Indonesia

13-07-2000 Operational Update

 A resurgence of violence in the Moluccas presents the latest threat to Indonesia's stability, and recent clashes in Central Sulawesi and continued tensions in Aceh add to the region's insecurity. Focusing on assistance to victims of recent violence in North Maluku, ICRC also continues its activities in Aceh and West Timor, and has begun working in Central Sulawesi. In programmes which vary with the situation in each area affected by violence, joint ICRC/Indonesian Red Cross (Palang Merah Indonesia: PMI) teams provide essential food and relief, health care and water and sanitation improvements needed by both displaced and resident populations, and help maintain links between family members dispersed by the violence. The ICRC also works to protect detainees and civilian populations from breeches of humanitarian law.  

 General Situation  

Bloodshed has escalated in the Moluccas in May and June, with renewed fighting in Ambon, the capital of Southern Maluku province, and on the island of Halmahera, Northern Maluku province. On June 19 over 100 people were killed and some 200 were injured in Duma, on the northern tip of Halmahera. The army evacuated the wounded to the nearby town of Tobelo. Some 200 houses were destroyed and over 700 people fled to Tobelo seeking safety. In that context of escalating violence, the President declared a state of civil emergency in the Moluccas on 25 June.

Recent inter-religious violence has also rocked Central Sulawesi (Celebes). Clas hes there began in the town of Poso in April, calming for a few weeks and then flaring again in late May and continuing through June. Since 23 May over 150 people have been killed and several thousand forced to flee to nearby towns.

In Aceh, on the island of Sumatra, clashes between government forces and the separatist GAM (Free Aceh Movement) increased early in the year with many attacks on police stations and army posts and the launching of a vigorous security force operation against separatist positions. In spite of the upsurge in violence the number of displaced persons living in camps in Aceh has declined from 15,000 to 2000-3000 since the beginning of the year. In an attempt to diminish tensions, Indonesian authorities and GAM agreed to a " humanitarian pause " , which went into effect on 2 June.

East Timorese remaining in West Timor and the rest of Nusa Tinggara province are estimated to number between 90,000 and 130,000. Their repatriation continues, but has slowed pending results of efforts toward reconciliation between the CNRT (Council of National Resistance in East Timor) and some militia groups. A " tidal surge " of heavy rain, wind and flooding peaked on mid-May and caused severe damage to approximately one third of the area of West Timor, particularly the coastal Betun district. The storm and flooding killed 126 persons, destroyed crops, swept away many houses and damaged the road network near the coast. Authorities described it as the worst flooding in a generation and declared a state of emergency. Since the places which had been chosen for their temporary integration included some of the hardest hit areas, many of the East Timorese who had fled last year's events were relocated to temporary camps in more secure areas; this population made up the large majority of the 20,000 persons severely affected by the flooding and they accounted for about half of the related deaths. The Indonesian government and internat ional agencies mounted a prompt and effective response to the crisis, including an airlift of relief supplies.

 ICRC response  

 The Moluccas  

Since its arrival in Ternate in late March, an ICRC/PMI team composed of medical, relief and logistic personnel has worked to help victims of recent violence in Northern Maluku.(see Update 19 April 2000: ICRC activities in the Moluccas ).

 Emergency aid to victims of clashes  

At the request of the Indonesian authorities, the ICRC chartered a helicopter in order to reach victims of the violence in Duma, and an ICRC/PMI team reached Tobelo on 24 June. As medical supplies for treating the wounded were the most urgent need, the Red Cross team made repeated trips during the following days, delivering medicines and supplies to the hospitals in Tobelo and nearby Galela. Another humanitarian organization which was already working in the area assumed responsibility for relief assistance to the displaced, and the ICRC has remained in close contact with them to ensure coordination and prevent duplication of effort.

 Red Cross relief missions in Northern Maluku  

At the end of May the ICRC and the PMI completed a joint relief mission to the southern region of North Maluku province. Red Cross staff traveled by sea to cover an area of approximately 43,800 square kilometers and a route of 500 nautical miles to visit the coastal areas of islands which were often mountainous and had poor road networks. Villages visited were those which had been severely affected by violence or which accommodate d large groups of displaced people. After making needs assessments based on the death rates, malnutrition rates, disease patterns and living conditions in each area, Red Cross teams made immediate distributions of family parcels from stocks that they had brought with them by boat.

A similar mission to the northern part of the province began in mid-June in Morotai island, and will continue in the coming weeks. In initial visits to camps for the displaced and severely affected villages in Morotai, the ICRC/PMI team identified over 5300 displaced persons, 2000 of whom were in camps.

 Deteriorating living conditions in villages  

The villagers surveyed in the southern part of the province had managed to maintain adequate nutritional levels, but the Red Cross survey found that their resources were overstretched and their living conditions were deteriorating. Many houses were destroyed, and while some displaced families found shelter in public buildings or private houses, most had built makeshift shelters with bamboo, leaves, or plastic. Essential equipment for fishing and farming was often destroyed in the violence, and disruptions of transportation systems further interfered with economic activity, forcing in some cases a shift in staple foods from rice to locally-grown crops. In some places health problems increased with the water systems'inability to accommodate influxes of the displaced. Basic health services continued to function in most areas, but they were often hampered by a disruption of the supply of medical materials. The departure of health personnel, teachers and civil servants from areas of violence has led to a reduction of public services and compromised security conditions there. In the north the first findings have been similar, with critical problems found in sanitation and water supply at camps for the displaced.

 Assistance distributed in North Maluku  


Based on survey findings and in coordination with other humanitarian organizations, over 40 ICRC and PMI staff and volunteers delivered family parcels of clothing, basic utensils, hygiene articles and other essential household items to benefit a total of some 34,000 people in the southern region of North Maluku. In their continuing survey of the northern part of the province Red Cross teams have so far distributed nearly 1200 family parcels. In Lanube Danube camp they also distributed used clothes and 3.5 tonnes of rice for use by 517 families.

 Priorities for future activities in North Maluku  

In the areas it has already surveyed, the Red Cross has identified the support to health services, the improvement of water supply, and the strengthening of economic security as priorities for the development of continuing relief activities. Such support and assistance is, however, limited to the capacity of the ICRC/PMI to gain access to the victims. This access remains problematic for the time being. Nevertheless, the ICRC continues to work in the accessible regions of Northern Maluku, identifying and addressing the needs of both resident and displaced populations in areas affected by violence and displacement.

 Evaluation of South Maluku  

Since Ambon had a more substantial presence of humanitarian organizations and violence there had diminished, the ICRC decided early in the year to focus its activities on North Maluku. With the recent increase in violence in Ambon, a joint PMI/ICRC mission is planned for the coming weeks to assess humanitarian needs and consider the po ssibilities for renewed ICRC activity there.

 Central Sulawesi  

At the end of May, the ICRC sent a shipment of 400 family parcels of essential non-food relief items to Poso for distribution by a joint Red Cross team to families most affected by violence there in April. Plans for their distribution were disrupted by the recent upsurge of violence. On 29 June a Red Cross team returned to the area to assess needs created by the latest violence, and additional parcels are being prepared for distribution there.


In Aceh the ICRC continued to concentrate on protection issues, collecting allegations of arrests reported by family members. Since January, more than one hundred cases were opened on behalf of family members who had not been able to ascertain the fate and whereabouts of allegedly arrested relatives. In addition to direct interventions by delegates in the field, contacts with military and police commanders at various levels were stepped up in Aceh and in Jakarta in order to strengthen the dialogue with the authorities and increase their acceptance of ICRC's humanitarian activities conducted on both sides of the conflict.

Following the agreement between the Indonesian Government and the opposition movement GAM on a humanitarian pause, protection activities were stepped up and support to the Aceh PMI was increased. Just days after the pause came into effect the ICRC and the PMI jointly sponsored a seminar on humanitarian assistance which covered the topics of needs assessment, planning, and financing projects. The seminar was attended by 70 person s, including PMI volunteers and representatives from NGOs around the province.

 West Timor  

The ICRC worked jointly with the PMI to help reunite families and reestablish family links severed by the recent floods. Providing tracing services to both refugees and residents, Red Cross teams exchanged 76 family messages and helped reunite 11 persons with their families. This activity was carried out by the Red Cross tracing network which continues to help families dispersed by last year's events in East Timor. During the first half of the year, 18,474 Red Cross messages were issued in West Timor and 18,848 were delivered there.

With repatriations continuing to reduce the number of East Timorese remaining in West Timor, the needs of this population have stabilized. Following this progress, all joint ICRC/PMI assistance activities have been phased out. Having delivered family kits of essential household items to 2,300 families, provided health care to 50,000 displaced persons, and trucked water supply, built latrines and installed water tanks in camps for the displaced, Red Cross assistance programmes officially ended on 30 April. Indonesian authorities have taken over the ICRC water and sanitation programme, and health needs will be covered by the existing Ministry of Health structure.

 Countrywide preventive action  

In order to prevent violations of humanitarian law, the regional delegation organizes programmes and presentations on humanitarian law and principles which targe t groups involved in Indonesia's trouble spots. Targeted audiences include battalions and mobile police brigades assigned to restore order in violent areas, as well as government officials, civic leaders, humanitarian workers, journalists or the general public. Media contacts are used to promote press coverage of humanitarian law dissemination events in order to broaden their impact. Recent activities in this vein include a presentation on basic humanitarian law to 100 battalion commanders from the military regional command including West Timor, another to 125 officers of an Airborn Infantry Battalion that was headed for the border of West Timor, and a third to 25 police commanders in Banda Aceh.

These presentations are made possible by the broad network of contacts that the ICRC has developed over the years through its sustained efforts to promote the respect of international humanitarian law within the country's civil and military institutions. ICRC programmes continue to help armed and security forces to systematically incorporate humanitarian law in standard training curricula. Recently ICRC dissemination activities have extended their reach: in May cooperation with the Indonesian Navy was initiated with a seminar for 60 Navy officers from units in Jakarta and Surabaya; and through a new agreement with the Indonesian police, the ICRC has begun working with the Indonesian Police School in Jakarta to include humanitarian law in its regular course for personnel from commands around the country.