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Originally published January 11, 2005 at 12:00 AM | Page modified January 13, 2005 at 4:06 PM

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About Indonesia and Mercy Corps

Indonesia, with about 238 million residents, is the world's fourth largest nation. It is an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, located between the Indian and Pacific Oceans.


Indonesia, with about 238 million residents, is the world's fourth largest nation. It is an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, located between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The former Dutch colony declared independence and became a republic after World War II.

• More than half of the population resides on the island of Java.

• The population is 88% Muslim, making Indonesia the world's largest Islamic nation.

• About 88% of the population is literate, and 27% of the population live below the poverty line.

• Recent terrorist attacks in Bali and elsewhere have taken a large toll on Indonesia's tourism industry.

• Indonesia has undergone dramatic political change in recent years. Suharto, a former general who ruled the country for 32 years, was toppled from power in 1998. From 1998 to 2004, the country had three presidents. In 2004, Indonesia's first direct presidential election — and the largest one-day election in the world — was won by Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

— Sources: Global Security, Wikipedia, CIA Factbook


Most of the damage from the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami was in Aceh (pronounced AH-chay), a special territory of Indonesia on the northern tip of the island of Sumatra.

• The western coastal areas of Aceh, including the city of Banda Aceh and the city of Meulaboh, have been devastated by the tsunami. The towns of Calang and Teunom, with populations of about 12,000 each, are reported to have vanished completely.

• The population of Aceh is estimated at 4.2 million . It is believed that Islam first entered Southeast Asia through Aceh in the 8th century, and it is the part of Indonesia where the Islamic character of the population still is the most pronounced. Relative to most of Indonesia, it is a religiously conservative area. It has substantial natural resources, particularly oil.


• Aceh is known for its political independence and fierce resistance to occupation by outsiders, including the former Dutch colonists and the current Indonesian government.

Aceh was put under Operational Military status in 1991 after a resurgence of separatist activity, and the tide of violence in there almost never seems to recede. Since 2003, it has been the site of renewed conflict between the Indonesian military and Acehnese rebels. Thousands have died in the conflict.

— Sources: Global Security, Wikipedia, CIA Factbook


Mercy Corps is an international family of humanitarian agencies that provide emergency relief services, develop sustainable communities and promote civil-society initiatives around the world. It is headquartered in the U.S. and Scotland.

History: The group was founded in 1979 as the Save the Refugees Fund, in response to the plight of Cambodian refugees. As it expanded to other countries, it was renamed Mercy Corp International in 1981.

Mercy Corps has provided $830 million in assistance to people in 80 nations.

Staff: 2,000 worldwide

Activities: Helping 6 million people in more than 35 countries.

Relief in Indonesia: Eighteen staff members are deployed to Banda Aceh and surrounding areas. Mercy Corps is one of the few aid agencies to have reached the west Sumatran coastal town of Meulaboh, one of the hardest-hit areas, where over 90,000 people are displaced.

— Source: Mercy Corps

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