“We have been sick for so long yet the medical staffs do not care at all.”
Tambrauw resident, told to The Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance
Health Crisis Unfolding
Several sources – The Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance, The Papuan Human Rights Commission, NGO Papua Belantara – are reporting that over 500 people have fallen ill and close to a hundred people have already died from malnutrition and “disease outbreaks” since November of last year in five remote villages in West Papua’s Kwoor District, Tambrauw Regency.
The local government has been slow in providing health services – only two villages (Sumbab and Bikar) have received medicine – forcing many people to walk very long distances, sometimes for days, to obtain basic medical care.
Woles Krenak, a member of the West Papua Council, blamed government inaction for the severity of the epidemic.
The Head of Health Services in Tambrauw told Abner Korwa, Chairman of Papua Belantara, that “there is a lack of health workers and medicine in the area.” Bovit Bovar, a social worker in the region, explained:
“The hamlets plagued by malnutrition are very remote and have no communication network at all. The access to this place is very difficult.”
4, 15, or 95?
Not surprisingly, Indonesian officials are already trying to downplay the reports.
West Papua Governor Abraham O. Atururi, while acknowledging there had been cases of malnutrition in the area, claimed that only four local people had died:
“The information that malnutrition has claimed 95 lives in the sub-district of Kwor is false.”
The Minister for People’s Welfare, Agung Laksono ordered the local health office to deliver medical assistance to Tambrauw, but denied the severity of the epidemic:
“It cannot be classified as mass deaths.”
Gabriel Asem, District Head of Tambrauw alsow downplayed the number of deaths related to malnutrition in the region:
“There were 15 people who died because of malnutrition since November, not 95 as reported”
West Papua is a battered province that has long sought independence from Indonesian control. This incident is a clear example why.
The West Papuan people live in poverty while the province, rich in mineral wealth, generates over a billion dollars a year for Indonesia. In return the West Papuans live in a police state where all manner of crimes against humanity are perpetrated by Indonesia police and military forces, including politically-motivated imprisonments, assassinations, torture, brutality, murder etc.
It is interesting to see that the corrupt government officials don’t deny there have been cases of malnutrition in the area, or that there have been deaths, but just argue about the number of people affected, as if 15 people dying of malnutrition in one district would be tolerable for a supposedly emerging democracy. If the situation were not serious why did the Minister for People’s Welfare order medical assistance to the area, even while hypocritically downplaying the number of people suffering?