Jakarta – The government says residents of Puncak regency, Central Papua, have returned to their normal activities following the distribution of tonnes of food aid to the area.
People residing in Agandugume and Lambewi districts in Puncak had been scrambling for food due to a drought and cold snap hitting the area since June.
The weather phenomenon, combined with the high altitude of Puncak exacerbated the local food shortage, forcing locals to eat spoiled crops that left many ill.
Six people, including a baby, had died of dehydration or diarrhoea, while some 7,500 others were starving, before disaster aid from authorities started to arrive in recent weeks.
"People have resumed their daily lives. They have started to eat normally," Coordinating Human Development and Culture Minister Muhadjir Effendy told reporters on Monday, as quoted by kompas.com.
He visited the affected districts earlier this month, along with dozens of tonnes of disaster relief comprising food, blankets and clothing materials, among other aid.
"The local residents are being supplied [with food] daily from Timika," Muhadjir said, referring to the largest city in Mimika regency, which borders drought-hit Puncak.
Despite initially being impeded by bad weather, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) had distributed as of last week some 5.2 tonnes of food aid and emergency kits, including 515 packets of basic food commodities, 475 mattresses, 100 blankets, seven electricity generators and 60 tents.
As part of longer-term efforts to prevent food shortages in the region, the government is currently planning to build food warehouses in Agandugume. The construction of the warehouses is slated to start in September.
Apart from the warehouses, authorities are planning to expand the runway in Agandugume airstrip to allow large aircraft to land. The airstrip is currently only able to accommodate smaller aircraft and helicopters.
The drought in Puncak occurred while the country braces for more dry spells nationwide due to El Nino over the Pacific Ocean. The climatic phenomenon tends to bring hotter air to the Indonesian archipelago, increasing the likelihood of drought.
– The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network