Sulawesi devastation ‘beyond imagination’ as massive aid operation continues: UN relief agencies
Three weeks since disaster struck, it is estimated to have killed more than 2,000 people, displaced 80,000 and destroyed nearly 70,000 houses. At least 680 individuals remain unaccounted for, UNHCR says.
In addition to the tremors and tidal waves, huge landslides turned the ground into liquid mud which washed over large areas.
“Our staff described the effects of the earthquake and tsunami as ‘beyond imagination’ and ‘devastating’,” said Charlie Yaxley, spokesperson for UNHCR in Geneva. “Communities have seen their houses, schools and hospitals reduced to rubble. Entire villages have been decimated.”
Mr Yaxley confirmed that UNHCR had delivered 435 tents to the hub at Balikpapan airport, on the neighbouring island of Borneo earlier on Friday. The relief items were delivered to Indonesian authorities, which assisted with transferring them to Sulawesi.
Another 1,305 tents will be delivered to Balikpapan in “the next few days”, he added, noting that this initial consignment will provide “much-needed shelter” to around 6,500 of the most vulnerable.
Far more material and psychological assistance will be required, however, and additional emergency tents, sleeping mats, mosquito nets and solar lamps will be delivered in the coming weeks.
‘Strong resilience’ of survivors continues
“There remains a strong resilience, with people helping each other where they can and simply by sharing their stories,” Mr Yaxley said. “One woman said that she felt ‘lucky’ that she had only lost her father, and that her husband and son had survived.”
Another 10 “mobile storage hubs” are being set up around Palu and Donggala “to ensure the smooth flow and distribution of aid to where it is needed”, WFP said in a statement.
“WFP is due to have 40 trucks in operation in and around Palu by 20 October,” said spokesperson Hervé Verhoosel. “These trucks will be available to all partners through a common services agreement for transporting and distributing aid.”
Palu in Central Sulawesi, is one of the worst-hit areas. Earlier this week, UNHCR staff went there to coordinate with local government and partners. In Petobo and Balaroa, “many people have not only lost their home, but even the land on which it once stood”, Mr Yaxley said.
In answer to a question about aid workers’ access to Sulawesi, the UNHCR spokesperson insisted that the Government of Indonesia and humanitarian workers had been working “tirelessly” as first responders in the affected areas.
“The Government is leading the response and they are coordinating that,” he said. “It’s Indonesian aid staff who are leading that as well. Our staff were on the ground earlier this week and they’ve had no issues with access to the affected areas.”
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Conflict diamonds and climate change: Cooperate, don’t compete over natural resources urges Guterres
The risks associated with preventing and resolving such conflicts are “only going to grow” with the increasing impacts of climate change, warned Mr. Guterres, briefing the Security Council.
Citing the example of Africa – where 75 per cent of civil wars since 1990 have been partially funded by resources such as diamonds and valuable minerals – the UN chief highlighted the need for greater cooperation between civil society, governments and international organizations in regulating and controlling such assets.
With the increasing impacts of climate change evident in all regions, the risks are only going to grow – UN chief Guterres
“Through certified extraction, production and fair-trade practices, and with a focus on aiding local communities, lawlessness can be countered, and tangible benefits brought to conflict-affected populations,” he said, noting the positive impact of what is known as the Kimberley process certification scheme, on curbing trade in conflict diamonds.
Resources also ‘catalysts’ for cooperation
In his briefing, the UN chief also emphasized that the wealth generated by shared natural resources, provides an incentive for cooperation and dialogue, such as in the Senegal River and Lake Chad basins in Africa; Lake Titicaca, in South America; or trans-boundary water management in Central Asia.
“And, from my own experience, the Albufeira Convention, agreed during my time as Prime Minister of Portugal, continues to promote good relations and cooperation on water management between Portugal and Spain,” he added.
Mr. Guterres also informed the 15-member Security Council of the Organization’s efforts to mitigate the fallout from competition, highlighting the UN’s work to address climate-related security risks, use of mediation over natural resources as a tool for conflict prevention, and partnerships at all levels.
“We are [also] seeking to strengthen the capacity of women’s networks and organizations to effectively engage in mediation processes around natural resources and the environment, including in the context of climate change,” he continued, noting support schemes for Afro-Colombian women in Colombia on natural resource use, ownership, governance and benefit-sharing.
In addition, a new UN system-wide guidance note to streamline the best approach to resolve conflicts over land use, has been recently finalized, said the Secretary-General.
The guidance note follows a study on land and conflict, published by the UN Human Settlements Programme, UN-Habitat.
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With rapid, far-reaching changes, world can prevent climate change worst-case scenarios – UN chief
“Limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees will require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society – especially how we manage land, energy, industry, buildings, transport and cities,” Secretary-General António Guterres, at a ministerial meeting on climate finance, in Bali, Indonesia.
“That means ending deforestation and planting billions more trees; drastically reducing the use of fossil fuels and massively increasing renewable energy; switching to climate-friendly sustainable agriculture.; considering new technologies, such as carbon capture and storage.”
In his remarks, the UN chief made a particular call for “climate friendly” investments, particularly in the infrastructure sector, where over $90 trillion in investments is expected by 2030.
“The next few years are critical [and] your leadership is needed,” Mr. Guterres told the ministers.
‘We cannot afford to ignore climate risk’
Highlighting enormous economic losses to climate-related disasters and projections that by 2050, climate change could reduce annual GDP in some South and Southeast Asian countries by up to 4 per cent, the Secretary-General underscored that climate risk cannot be ignored.
“We need a new economic framework that integrates climate and disaster risk in all aspects of finance, planning and budgeting,” he said.
We need a new economic framework that integrates climate and disaster risk in all aspects of finance, planning and budgeting
Alongside, effective economic policy and fiscal instruments are also needed, he continued, urging a “meaningful price” on carbon and an end to fossil fuel subsidies to promote low-carbon and climate-resilient growth.
He also called for “fundamental shifts” in climate financing, including government policies that can increase resources available for climate action.
“Governments need to encourage their banks to support green financing and innovative financial instruments – such as green bonds – and debt instruments that can strengthen the resilience of vulnerable nations,” said the UN chief, calling also for the mobilization of private sector financing.
In his remarks, he also called on countries to make full use of the upcoming Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-24), to be held in Katowice, Poland, and to come out of the meeting with a robust framework that allows countries to operationalize and implement the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
“I count on all leaders to call on their negotiators to resolve all sticking points and insist on progress,” he said.
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