Indonesia Pulls Back on Allowing Foreign Aid
In the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi Province, the Indonesian government seems to have changed its mind about allowing new international organizations to enter the country and offer aid. Read an excerpt from IRIN News about what’s happening now, and how this affects the aid world.
The government last week told international aid groups that foreign staff will not be allowed on the ground in Central Sulawesi Province, which was hit by 28 September earthquakes and a tsunami that washed away homes, destroyed entire neighbourhoods, and uprooted more than 80,000 people. More than 2,100 people are confirmed dead, and these numbers are set to rise with the government officially calling an end to search and rescue operations last Friday.
The regulations, which were first enforced during a separate earthquake that rattled the island of Lombok in August, have left some international aid groups scrambling to clarify the rules nearly three weeks after the Sulawesi response began. A staff member at an international NGO told IRIN that several agencies are meeting with government ministries to propose programmes and to gauge what will be allowed.
“The confusing thing is that the Indonesian government asked for international assistance. So if they hadn’t asked for international assistance, that would be one thing,” said the aid worker, who asked not to be identified because the issue was considered sensitive. “But they clearly don’t want an international NGO presence.”
The government says restrictions on foreign staff are necessary to coordinate aid among the 85 international NGOs that have offered help. A spokesman for Indonesia’s foreign affairs ministry told media that without the regulations, “the presence of foreign aid workers, who have good intentions, may hamper the rescue and recovery work carried out by the national team”.
Officials say that foreign NGOs must apply for accreditation and work through local aid organisations, rather than sending expatriate staff to the quake-hit area around the provincial capital, Palu.
Many international groups are directing resources to local non-governmental organisations that have been on the ground since the emergency’s early days – either through long-standing partnerships or more recent arrangements spurred by the government regulations.
Yenni Suryani, the Indonesian country manager for Catholic Relief Services, said the organisation has applied for permission to bring in three temporary international staff members who will support its work with local organisations like the Muhammadiyah Disaster Management Centre and PKPU Human Initiative.
“We only have so much staff,” she said. “For this scale of response, I need more.”
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