61 Papuans Die in Samenage Hamlet, Yahukimo Regency

KOTA JAYAPURA - Sixty-one residents of Samenage hamlet in Helenga district, Yahukimo, Papua, are reported to have died between January and March this year due to a variety of illnesses, some of which are related to malnutrition, a source said on Wednesday.

The data was provided by a pastoral team that paid a visit to the area during the recent Easter celebrations, said human rights activist and Catholic priest John Jonga of the Hepuba parish, which serves the mountainous Central Highlands area of Papua.

Yahukimo, which has a population of more than 164,000, was originally part of Jayawijaya regency before it was hived off as a separate entity, and is located some 800 kilometers from Jayapura, the Papuan capital. The hamlet can only be reached by light aircraft.

“We have recorded 61 deaths due to health issues such as respiratory problems, liver problems, diarrhea, guinea worm disease and swollen limbs,” said Jonga.

Jonga, winner of the 2009 Yap Thiam Hien human rights award, claimed that the sick villagers did not have access to healthcare.

Samenage has no puskesmas (community health center) as it only has an auxiliary health center with one medical worker, known locally as mantri. However, the mantri has reportedly been absent for two months due to sickness.

The villagers, Jonga said, relied heavily on sweet potatoes, known as batatas, and bananas grown in their gardens for their daily nutrition. Apart from these two sources of food, they also consumed coconuts taken from nearby forests.

Earlier this month, the Sorong Raya chapter of the Nusantara Traditional Community Alliance (AMAN) reported that as many as 95 people in three villages — Baddei, Jokjober and Kosefa — in Tambrauw, West Papua, died of illnesses with symptoms ranging from headaches, fever and skin irritation between November 2012 and March 2013.

The NGO claimed that the villagers failed to recover from their illnesses due to a lack of healthcare in the three villages. In 2010, the three villages’ puskesmas ceased providing healthcare to residents due to a lack of personnel.

In Yahukimo regency itself this is not the first report of multiple fatalities. Previously in 2005, at least 55 people died from malnutrition and 112 others fell sick from related illnesses in the mountainous regency between November and December. The failure of the sweet potato crop was blamed for the widespread

Four years later 92 people died of malnutrition between January and August 2009. The local government reported that a failed harvest had caused devastating food shortages in the region.

Regarding the recent deaths, Jonga said that this time around the villagers had not faced a harvest failure as had occurred in the past years.

Jonga said he hoped the government would provide a nutrition-improvement program, especially for children and pregnant women, as well as training volunteers as medical assistants in the village.

Separately, in response to the report, Papua Health Agency head Joseph Rinta said that he had dispatched a team to check out the report. “We need to check the exact number of deaths because so far we have not yet received any reports of epidemics or force majeure,” said Joseph.

Joseph said that the remote location hindered the government’s efforts to provide health services and ensure that the province had enough medical workers to serve its people. [TheJakartaPost]
Bagikan ke Google Plus


Post a Comment