After three years, Nduga displaced people still urgently need sanitation and education

displaced people
Health services are also provided for residents of Sekom, who lived side by side with Nduga refugees for three years in Muliama District, Jayawijaya Regency. – Jubi/Yuliana Lantipo

Muliaman, Jubi – Now entering the fourth year since thousands of Nduga residents fled their villages in December 2018. More than 80 families have been living in poverty in evacuation in Sekom, Muliama District, Jayawijaya Regency. The shelter is surrounded by gardens and trees, located outside the city of Wamena, about an hour’s drive to the west.

Together with the Special Committee for Humanity of the Papuan People’s Assembly (MRP) and the medical team, Jubi had the opportunity to visit and witness the condition of the displaced people on Saturday and Sunday, June 4 and 5, 2022.

The people’s health conditions are poor, as can be seen from the absence of basic water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities. A limited amount of clean water can only be obtained after walking a few kilometers. There is no clean water reservoir.

People do not have many options for activities to do in the evening due to the lack of lighting. Flaming furnaces are the only thing that illuminates and warms the displaced people inside the honai (traditional house).

With all these troubles, the presence of the medical team who came with us was enthusiastically received by the displaced people, consisting of mostly women and children. All of them, as well as Jayawijaya residents around Sekom, got free medical check-ups. The displaced people of Nduga have long been waiting for regular health services.

Nduga Displaced People Coordinator at Sekom Rev. Kones Kogoya said that while in the evacuation camp, he and other displaced people faced various obstacles in getting health services such as in hospitals, community health centers, and even drug stores due to administration constrain or the high cost.

At least a dozen of displaced people have died within 3 years. According to Kones, most of them died because they could not access health services.

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displaced people
Nduga refugees queue at the residential yard in Sekom to have their health checked. – Jubi/Yuliana Lantipo

“In Kimbim District, nine children died because the hospital was far away in Wamena. Even if they finally had the money and went there, the hospital would have not served them because of their Nduga ID. On the other hand, medicines are costly,” said Pdt. Kones Kogoya, Sunday (5/6/2022).

Kones said that previously there had been visits by the medical team to the refugee camps. However, it was only in the early years of the evacuation. Later, there were no more services, even after three years have passed.

The Nduga people, said Kones, made the initiative to do gardening and sell sweet potatoes and vegetables to the market. But they do not earn much from it and only be able to meet their daily needs but medicine.

The people’s gardening area is also limited. They cannot garden outside the designated location because of the potential for horizontal conflicts between displaced people and local residents.

“Therefore, Nduga government and doctors please look at the existing conditions. We can only get treatment [in the City] if we have money. Otherwise, we would just helplessly witness our sick children like we do today. Mr. Luis Madai [from the MRP’s Special Committee for Humanity] and the medical team have visited several times. This is what we want,” said Kones.

“We also need an integrated healthcare center so there will be medicines. If there is medicine here, the doctor will come and prescribe the medicine. We God’s people are praying but it’s not enough, there must be more medicine and supplement so that the children and the rest of the community are healed and healthy,” he added.

Kones said it was important to preserve the children’s health as they were the next generation of the Nduga community after so many people have died on the run to seek refuge. Many pregnant women also gave birth but their children could not be saved while fleeing in the forest.

“So the children that are still here, we must watch for them,” said Kones.

Most of the refugees consist of children and women. Several mothers brought their children on the day of the visit of the MRP Special Committee for Humanity who brought the medical team to check their health condition, on Saturday (4/6/2022). – Jubi/Yuliana Lantipo

Early Childhood Education and Kindergarten

Other than lacking sanitary and health facilities, the Nduga displaced people in Sekom also hope for educational facilities in the evacuation complex, especially early childhood education and kindergarten.

Rev. Kones Kogoya said that currently there were dozens of children and teenagers in the refugee camps. They have not been going to school all these years in evacuation. Even the parents could not meet the children’s needs of education due to their own lack of education.

“Some of these children have been back to school, to the nearest school. The younger ones want to go to kindergarten and learn but no one pays attention to them. The children can only go to elementary school after they go to kindergarten first. But in reality, we have no kindergarten, so the big children go to elementary school while still unable to read,” Kones explained.

In order to provide health and education services, Sekom Tribal Chief Zakeus Lengka, who on behalf of his people gave part of the land to be occupied by Nduga displaced people, said he was ready to support the establishment of an integrated healthcare post on Sekom land for Nduga displaced people and Sekom residents.

Zakeus also hopes there will be attention from any party to provide assistance and training for displaced people, especially in terms of managing sanitation and understanding nutritional needs.

“Maybe these people lack assistance. The people usually only eat vegetables with rice. If there is no rice, for example, when it comes to petatas [sweet potato], they just burn the petatas and eat them without vegetables. Therefore, these people need a guide for them to fulfill their nutrition. Later, after the integrated healthcare post is built, hopefully, we will be able to teach children,” Zakeus said. (*)

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