June 5, 2006

UN says Java quake aid flowing, housing critical

By Michael Perry

YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia (Reuters) - Aid is now flowing to
tens of thousands of survivors of Indonesia's earthquake but
shelter remains a critical problem, the United Nations said on
Monday, as Jakarta revised down the disaster death toll.

The Indonesian government said it would start handing out
compensation to the victims to buy clothes and reconstruct
their houses, more than a week after the quake killed 5,782
people and left tens of thousands homeless.

An official at the Social Affairs Department said the death
toll from the magnitude 6.3 quake -- which struck the Java
island at dawn on May 27 -- had been revised down from the
earlier 6,234 after officials reviewed the numbers.

U.N. local coordinator Charlie Higgins said the aid
operation was now in full swing after being constrained by the
topography of Yogyakarta and Central Java, where hundreds of
villages are squeezed between rice fields and congested urban

"We have overcome most of the logistical bottlenecks that
prevented the flow of assistance," he said.

"Many people simply don't want to leave their property, so
we have to seek them out and that takes more time," Higgins
told a news conference. "It brings short-term problems but it
also brings quicker long-term recovery." Higgins said providing
housing for survivors was critical with more than 200,000 homes
destroyed or badly damaged. He said so far only some 70,000
families had received housing assistance.

Many survivors said they did not have the money to buy
building materials after the quake.

"We cannot rebuild anything until we get money from the
government. We are only farmers here. Government aid has not
come here," said Sugiman, 27, from Mredo Gatak village in the
worst-hit area, Bantul.


The government said it would give villagers whose houses
were destroyed up to 30 million rupiah to rebuild their homes,
while victims would also get 10 kg (22 lb) of rice a month,
3,000 rupiah ($0.324) a day, cash for kitchen equipment and
clothes, and free medical treatment for three months.

"Donations will be given directly to the family head in the
village," Aburizal Bakrie, the coordinating minister for
people's welfare, said in a statement. "All victims will get
health treatment, including surgery, free of charge."

Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla said on Monday that
200 trucks had started delivering rice to survivors.

Aid workers had been struggling to get help to quake
victims living in fragile tents and makeshift shelters where
their homes once stood. Sanitation remains a concern for these
people, who risk infection and skin irritation by bathing in
dirty water.

There have been no disease outbreaks yet, but the risk of
infectious diseases remains high because of the crowding and
squalid conditions in some quake-hit areas.

There have also been worries over survivors taking refuge
in chicken coops, with potential exposure to the bird flu virus
in a country that has recorded 37 human deaths from the H5N1

But people are picking up the pieces of their lives.

Their main market now a wreck, some women in Bantul set up
a temporary roadside market to sell vegetables.

"Business is bad because people are not shopping any more.
They are afraid of leaving their houses because when they go to
markets something may happen to the family at home," said
Dartini, a 40-year-old woman in Bantul.

Several villages now have electricity and many shops have

The United Nations has unveiled plans for a $103 million
six-month relief operation to provide aid like emergency
shelter, medical assistance, clean water, sanitation, food and
child protection across the quake-devastated region.

(Additional reporting by Jalil Hamid)

($1=9,248 Rupiah)