Sumba Crisis Relief Fund

By The Sumba Foundation

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Excerpts taken from the article "COVID-19 mitigation measures compound an economic crisis in Sumba" (

Full article here

Obstacles to island wide trade

"Normally, when there is a bad harvest people can use their savings for buying household necessities. Those savings in Sumba are typically in the form of pigs and chickens. Villagers can raise pigs relatively easily and whenever they need money they can sell one or two. But that is impossible now due to the restrictions that the government imposed to prevent further spread of the virus. Prohibitions on gatherings of many people led to the postponement or cancellation of ceremonial events at which exchange between family lineages would include pigs. The hosts would also serve a meal with pork. Consequently, the local market for pigs has collapsed, closing off the option of selling pigs as a coping strategy in times of food shortage. Selling to traders from West Sumba, who would normally drive their pickup trucks to villages in East Sumba, is not an option both because borders between the districts on Sumba have been closed and there is a fear that travelling merchants will spread the virus. In May, we saw people queuing up to pawn their silver and gold pendants, which are crucial in ceremonial exchanges at weddings and funerals."

Weakened Ceremonial Economy

Mutual assistance between members of lineage communities is a strong traditional mechanism for coping with crisis in Sumba. The members of such communities might live across rural and urban areas, or some in upland villages and some along the coast. The variation in harvesting periods in these micro regions and diversification in economic activities spreads the risk of bad harvests and makes it possible for the larger community to survive in times of crisis. Even migrant labourers from Sumba, who managed to return to the island before the harbours and airports were closed to passenger traffic, can still live in the village and receive a share of the common resource base. The ceremonial events at which pigs are slaughtered—which are now prohibited because of the COVID-19 crisis—serve to maintain community bonds, and thus support informal social security in times of shortage. If the COVID-19 measures are extended for a long time they could weaken Sumba’s ceremonial economy.

Lack of resilience

"The Governor stated that “the NTT government will not adopt the latest World Health Organization protocol because the province has limited capacity in terms of budget, health care facilities and personnel”. NTT’s economy and society lacks resilience to cope with further restrictions that have devastating socio-economic effects.

We can only hope and pray that the COVID-19 virus will not spread further on Sumba because poor people do not have the means to protect themselves, the hospitals have no capacity for sufficient care, and for those already weakened because of malnutrition and other infectious diseases, resilience will likely be low."


Sumba Crisis Relief Fund Update

Thanks to generous donor support for the Sumba Crisis Relief Fund, we have been able to implement the following COVID-19 relief programs during the month of May
  • 1,500 food packets distributed to families in need - including 36 tons of rice, and 2 tons of dried fish
  • 2000 cloth masks, 300 face shields donated to local clinics and hospitals
  • 500 medical masks (n95), 300 single-use aprons to the local health deparment
  • 150 bars of antibacterial soap distributed to 13 hand washing stations
  • 1000 face masks purchased from a local women's co-op.
  • 123 malnourished children received direct food support
  • Medical supplies for diagnosing malaria donated to government clinics
Food Support Program
Working off of data provided by the local government, our team spent the month surveying villages in three main districts around our area to identify those who were most in need. From the results of our survey, we distributed 1000 food packets, prioritising families that had failed crops, did not qualify for government support, or who had no family to help them. We also distributed 500 food packets to families who are currently on reduced salaries due to the economic impacts of the pandemic.
Medicine and Medical Supplies
Sumba's first official cases of COVID-19 were reported this month, and so it is more important than ever for those working on the frontlines to have the equipment they need to keep themselves safe. We have donate n95 masks, face shields, disposable aprons, and cloth face masks to clinics, hospitals and the local department of health. The Sumba Foundation clinics continue to operate - providing life saving malaria diagnostics and treatment for thousands of people in our community.
Infant Nutrition
One of the programs that we deemed essential from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic is our Infant Nutrition program. This year we are providing direct food support for 123 children who are classified as malnourished according to WHO standards. Our team has adjusted the program a bit and can no longer gather villages together for food distribution. Instead the team delivers the eggs, fortified milk and mung bean porridge directly to the home of each family in need.


"Gotong Royong" Working Together

In Sumba we have the phrase "gotong royong" which means everyone working together to achieve a common goal. Now in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are living this idea and gathering as many partners as possible to join the fight to help protect some of Sumba's most vulnerable communities and people.

COVID-19 + Failed Crops

The people of Sumba, like many in the world, have been directly affected by the economic impact of the pandemic. In addition to these already difficult times, the area immediately surrounding Nihi Sumba has experienced lower than normal rainfall which means this year many of the crops have failed crops. Failed crops will mean hungry families in light of all the other economic hardships facing our communities.

COVID-19 + Tuberculosis

The majority of the elderly Sumbanese have severe upper respiratory issues including Tuberculosis and are at particular risk as the virus spreads into the villages. To help us deal with the increased caseload of patients we are hiring a second doctor and more nurses. We also need to support and protect the doctors and nurses in the government clinics and hospitals so they can continue working.

COVID-19 + Tourism

Tourism is the backbone of the Sumbanese economy, but now with the disruption in travel and the lack of government support, the people are suffering. It is highly likely that over the coming month people will start running out of food.

Sumba Crisis Relief Fund

Nihi Sumba and Sumba Foundation have created the Sumba Crisis Relief Fund to continue to support the Sumbanese people and help ease the burdens of poverty on the Island. All contributions will directly support The Sumba Foundation and the government's health services with medicines, medical equipment, personal protective equipment, testing, and monitoring equipment, virus education and prevention, tuition support, food aid, and to support the Sumba Foundation’s water and malnutrition projects.

You can join us

Our goal is to raise $200,000 to provide 1) emergency food aid to families impacted by the economic downturn/crop failure; and 2) medicine, medical equipment and health services to combat the spread of the virus and treat the Sumbanese people affected. Chris Burch, the owner of Nihi Sumba resort, has generously committed to matching any donation you make (up to our fundraising goal).

And here’s our little way of saying thank you for supporting our community

The top donor will receive a 5-night complimentary stay at Nihi Sumba.

The second donor will receive a 3-night complimentary stay at Nihi Sumba.

The third top donor will receive a one-night complimentary stay at Nihi Sumba.

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    Offline donation

Team Members

Patrick M. Compau

Basak Tan

Sean Downs

Tania Araujo