Health Minister Nila Farid Moeloek has said that her ministry has sent a team to Papua to investigate the deaths of 31 children since October in the country’s easternmost province.
The team was sent to Nduga regency to identify the cause of death of the children aged 2 and under, tempo.coreported. “From what I heard, the children had suffered from high fevers, convulsions and diarrhea before they died. But such information still lacks accuracy,” Nila said at her office in Jakarta on Friday.
To reach the location, according to the minister, members of team had to pass through difficult terrain, including a six to seven-hour journey on foot. The majority of the team are epidemiological experts.
Meanwhile, director general for disease control and healthy environment Muhammad Subuh said that it was difficult to determine the possible cause of deaths.
He said that besides children, there were also many livestock that died in Nduga regency, which the Agriculture Ministry was also investigating.
He, however, said that Malaria was very likely to be the children’s cause of death as Papua was the province with the highest incidence of malaria. Other provinces with a high incidence of malaria are Papua, Maluku, North Maluku, East Nusa Tenggara and West Papua.
Other possible causes of the death are meningitis and bronchitis, according to Muhammad. (bbn)
ARTWORK: Liberty Papua Leading the People (After Delacroix) by Peter Woods 2011
The Grasberg open pit is an open sore in the heart of the West Papuan highlands. The largest gold and third-largest copper mine in the world, Grasberg has been a source of huge profits for US-based Freeport-McMoRan and the Indonesian government.
But it also has been a source of immense violence, directed at local populations, and environmental degradation, a result of tailings being dumped into the Agabagong River.
The Amungme and Kamoro, the original landowners in the areas that now contain Freeport’s operations, have never been given a say over the exploitation of the land and have been heavily repressed by the Indonesian military, police and private security.
“Why did Amungme elders put border markers all the way around the … mountain of ore in 1967 during the exploration phase?”, John Rumbiak, a West Papuan human rights activist, asked in 1996. “Because that was a sacred area. Indonesian law considers the deep jungle to be empty, to have no owners. This is a very wrong perception. I want to stress that in Irian [West Papua], there is not a single piece of empty land. Every tree has an owner.”
In December, a Melbourne panel discussion, “Abusive visitors”, will explore the history of and devastating social and environmental impacts wrought by foreign exploitation of natural resources in Mt Carstensz, the location of the mine.
The forum, set amid 30 new Australian art works about West Papua, will hear from two women – a geographer and an indigenous West Papuan – and two men – a photographer and a mountaineer.