The sun often beats down on the humid forest corridors of Papua and West Papua—the easternmost provinces of Indonesia where human and infrastructure development lag far behind the rest of the country, and a large number of the population lives well below the poverty line. Coupled with sketchy phone signals and the fact that electricity has yet to reach most parts of the two neighbouring provinces, a perfect storm was brewing, as poliovirus could sneakily circulate in ripe conditions.
On 8 February 2019, after extensive field investigations, Indonesia reported circulation of vaccine-derived poliovirus type 1 (cVDPV1) in Yahukimo District, Papua Province. A polio outbreak was officially declared.
Driven by the guiding ethos of reaching every last child, local public health authorities supported by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative have developed outbreak zone service delivery strategies to reach as many children as possible including at schools, at outreach and local health centres, door-to-door campaigns, or at churches and mosques.
Here are some inspiring testimonials and stories of the collective efforts to end the cVDPV in Indonesia:
Fasting? No problem
Mirnawati and Imelda are two ambitious immunization staff members at the Moswaren health centre in the South Sorong District of West Papua province. Once the mass immunization campaigns began in their district on 29 April, Mirnawati and Imelda headed to their local community school to vaccinate all children from ages 5-15 years.
Upon contacting the school administration, they realized that the school session would be out for a week-long break, right up to the beginning of the month of Ramadan—a period of fasting for the Muslim population in the community.
Thinking quickly and willing to accommodate the Muslim students, both the immunization officers quickly coordinated with the school principal to offer vaccination on the National Education Day ceremony on 2 May. Mirnawati and Imelda also went above and beyond by offering to stay past sun-down to vaccinate all Muslim students after they opened their fasts.
Adrian, 7 years old
“Hello, my name is Adrian Suu. I am 7 years old, and I am from Cenderawasih village in Yahukimo, Papua Province. I study in the first grade at the Lentera Harapan School, and I want to be a pilot when I grow up. I’m glad that I got vaccinated so I can be healthy and fly in a plane!”
The resurgence of poliovirus in Indonesia underscores the threat posed by low-level virus transmission and the need to maintain high routine immunization everywhere in the world to minimize the risk of circulation of the virus.
The first polio outbreak response rounds were conducted in March and April 2019, targeting around 1 million children each in Papua and West Papua provinces. While the immunization coverage has been high across West Papua and low-land districts of Papua, vaccine coverage has often been impeded in high-land districts, including the outbreak source—Yahukimo district – owing to mobile populations, dense forests and poor health infrastructure.
2) Papuan students gain opportunity to study at US university
Victor Mambor The Jakarta Post
Detroit, Michigan / Tue, May 14, 2019 / 08:08 pm
Papua Governor Lukas Enembe and University of Rhode Island (URI) president David M. Dooley have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on education cooperation in Rhode Island, the United States.
Speaking after meeting with Papuan students in Detroit, Michigan, on Sunday, Enembe said both sides had agreed on the funding of eight academic programs.
The MoU also agreed on scholarships totaling US$10,000 per academic year for Papuan students to undertake undergraduate and post-graduate programs at URI. Seven students have already been selected for the programs. They are currently finishing high school in Washington, Enembe said.
“The aim of sending Papuan students abroad is to improve their competitiveness in science and technology and to prepare them as human resources with good discipline and skills,” he said.
During the signing ceremony of the MoU on Friday, Dooley said his side was ready to support Papuans in various disciplines of science at his university. He also promised to provide special supervisory measures for Papuan students.
The university currently has around 17,000 students who come from all around the globe, including Papua. Papuan students are enrolled in 90 study programs available on campus.
“We have several leading study programs in America and in the world. Among them are marine and fishery sciences and pharmacy. Our school of marine and fishery sciences is one of the best five globally,” Dooley said.
This year, URI will follow up on the cooperation agreement by opening a school of marine and fishery sciences at Cenderawasih University (Uncen) in Jayapura, Papua, a plan that was first drawn up in 2017, according to Papua provincial special autonomy bureau head Aryoko Rumaropen.
“The governor has expressed his support. Hopefully the school will soon be established at Uncen,” Aryoko said.
Uncen rector Apolo Safanpo lauded the move, saying it would expand and improve existing marine and fishery science programs.
Uncen currently has a department of marine and fishery sciences that offers two programs: marine sciences and fishery sciences.
The head of Uncen’s department of marine and fishery sciences, John D. Kalor, said the authorities wished for a speedy completion of the project.
“Hopefully with support from the Papua provincial administration the school can be opened in the near future,” Kalor said.
Despite being rich in natural resources, West Papua and Papua, located on the country’s easternmost island on the border of Papua New Guinea, are among the most underdeveloped provinces in Indonesia, partly because of Java-centric development policies during the New Order regime. Papua was granted special autonomy status to manage the interests of indigenous Papuans and develop its human resources through quality education programs.