West Timor stricken by drought

An estimated 600,000 West Timorese are affected by malnutrition, aid groups say.

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    Aid agencies say a "quiet crisis" is under way in the Indonesian province of West Timor, where thousands of people are facing starvation.

    The territory is in the grip of the worst drought in 20 years and food supplies are running out.

    Exclusive footage


    Watch Step Vaessen's report here

    Of a population of about two million an estimated 600,000 are affected by malnutrition.

    People are unable to plant or harvest their crops and thousands of children are suffering from acute malnutrition.

    Aid groups say the territory is on the brink of disaster and are appealing to the international community for help.

    At one feeding centre in the district of Belu we met Yoseph Seram.

    He weighed just 5.5kg, the normal weight for a six-month-old baby – but he is two and a half years old.

    Bit of porridge

    Yoseph's mother explained that her son's daily intake of food is only a little bit of porridge.

    The family doesn't have enough to eat because there was no harvest this year, she said.

    Thousands of children in West Timor are
    suffering from acute malnutrition

    Most children at the feeding centre were brought in after their weight dropped dramatically.

    Parents usually do not come by themselves because they feel helpless and ashamed that they are not capable of feeding their own children.

    Another child we saw was brought in when it was only two weeks old

    His mother told us she does not have enough milk to feed him because she hardly eats anything herself.

    Aid organisations say the situation in West Timor is alarming.

    Hardly any rain fell during last rainy season and even a second attempt to plant a fresh crop has failed.

    "We only have food left for one month," farmer Daniel Moen told us.

    "After that we are forced to go to the forest to find something to eat."

    Weather phenomenon

    Even if the weather does improve, farmers like Daniel can only re-plant their crops one year from now.

    The drought in east Indonesia is caused by a weather phenomenon called El Nino.

    It has hit this area before, but not as harshly as this year.

    The territory is in the grip of the
    worst drought in 20 years

    Only half of the usual amount of rain fell and according to experts El Nino is likely to occur more often in the future because of climate change.

    At a nearby village food stocks have reached crisis point, forcing the local village head, Joseph Tefa, to summon an emergency meeting.

    Almost all of the people in the area depend on their harvest for food.

    He has asked the government for help but so far to no response.

    "I am afraid that people are going to die," Joseph told us.

    "We never had malnutrition in our village, but now it's getting worse every week. And it will get worse in the coming months because we don’t have any food."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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