17 Dec 2005

Indonesian minister denies famine in Papua, says people there are fat

8:26 am on 17 December 2005

An Indonesian minister returning from Yahukimo regency in the province of Papua has denied people are starving in the isolated region.

The Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare, Aburizal Bakrie, has told the Jakarta Post newspaper that people in the area were fat, the pigs were big, and the corn and cabbage was growing well.

Mr Bakrie travelled to Yahukimo at the order of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono after reports that 55 people there had died of severe malnutrition since August.

Mr Bakrie did say that aid had reached 13 of 17 remote villages most at risk of food shortages.

He said to guarantee food security in the area, the government would set up food barns and send in agricultural experts to teach residents how to plant alternative crops.