US, Indonesia partner to address forest fires, haze

Farmers work on their farm engulfed in a thick haze on the outskirts of Palangkaraya city, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia, on Oct 26, 2015.
Farmers work on their farm engulfed in a thick haze on the outskirts of Palangkaraya city, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia, on Oct 26, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - United States Ambassador to Indonesia Robert O Blake Jr announced on Monday (Oct 26) that the US would contribute an initial US$2.75 million (S$3.83 million) in assistance to support Indonesia's efforts to address the effects of forest fires and haze.

"This assistance is part of the US' wider effort to support Indonesia's activities to suppress forest fires and to mitigate their effects on human health, as well as to support the Indonesian government's efforts to prevent forest fires in the future," he said in Jakarta on Monday.

Ambassador Blake said the US-Indonesia partnership would provide immediate assistance to populations affected by smoke, improve the effectiveness of current fire extinguishing efforts and address the impact of the fires on vulnerable populations.

The assistance package from the US includes United States Agency for International Development's (USAID) funding to help the Indonesian government to expand the ability of their health care centres to respond to haze-related respiratory illnesses. The funding will also be used to support Indonesia's efforts to raise public awareness of hazards associated with haze in the country.

"The funds will be provided through USAID's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) through the American Red Cross to the Indonesian Red Cross," said the US Embassy in Jakarta in a statement on Monday.

The embassy further said the funding would also be used to provide equipment and protective gear to firefighting crews located in provinces worst hit by forest fires, especially Central Kalimantan.

"It also will be used to support a team of US Forest Service technical advisers arriving in Indonesia this week to provide wildfire support," the embassy said.

"The team will bring an additional shipment of protective clothing for firefighters, and assist the Indonesian government in carrying out operational coordination, remote sensing, and imagery efforts."