Government Downplays Reported Malnutrition Deaths in Papua

Indonesian government officials have denied a recent allegation that dozens of people in a Papuan district died after suffering from severe malnutrition.

Frits Bernard Kamuki Ramandey, acting secretary of the Papuan Human Rights Commission, said 95 people in Tambrauw district, West Papua, died between November and April after suffering from malnutrition.

“This is insane. How did this happen? This is not even a natural disaster,” Frits said on Wednesday.

Minister for People’s Welfare Agung Laksono said on Wednesday that he has ordered the local health office to send the necessary medical assistance to Tambrauw, but denied that 95 people died.

“It cannot be classified as mass deaths,” he said.

Tambrauw district head Gabriel Asem said that while some people suffered from malnutrition, the number of deaths related to condition was far lower.

“There were 15 people who died because of malnutrition since November, not 95 as reported,” he said.

Bovit Bovar, a social worker in Tambrauw, said that malnutrition has affected more than 500 people in five hamlets in the district since November.

“The hamlets plagued by malnutrition are very remote and have no communication network at all. The access to this place is very difficult,” he said.

Bovit said the affected areas did not have proper health facilities or enough health workers.

Gabriel said the local government has tried to improve the people’s welfare by opening farmland for the locals and building housing complexes near public facilities.

Woles Krenak, a member of the West Papua Council, said government inaction has led to severity of the problem.

“This is very ironic, with a big regional budget people still died because of malnutrition,” he said.

With the special autonomy status, Papua is entitled to manage its own regional budget. From 2002 until 2012 the province received Rp 28.4 trillion ($2.91 billion). [JakartaGlobe]
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