Papua, Indonesia – At least 69 children have died due to malnutrition and a measles outbreak in Indonesia’s far eastern Papua province, but local church officials estimate the death toll could be much higher.
The government has declared a medical emergency but grieving parents in Asatat, a settlement in the middle of a dense forest, say no doctor has visited the remote village yet.
“Our lives have become so harsh. We need a doctor to come here. The government in Jakarta has to help us because the local government has never visited us,” said a local resident Aloysius Beorme.
Al Jazeera’s Step Vaesse, reporting from Asatat, said that police and military are helping health workers brought from Jakarta in reaching out to remote villages which have yet to receive any help.
Al Jazeera visited Agats village, where a church has been turned into an emergency hospital as other clinics are already overfull with patients.
“We found heartbreaking scenes in the village of Asatat where many children had died; it’s one of the hardest hit villages,” Al Jazeera’s Step Vaesse, reporting from Asatat, said.
Our correspondent said that the malnourished children were “vulnerable to diseases like measles and chicken pox”, and “none of these children had actually had proper vaccinations”.
“[T]he people were calling on the government, especially the central government in Jakarta, to help them – they had no faith in the regional government,” she said.
Amid lack of government aid, Catholic Church workers are handing out food to young children and give health advice to mothers, many of them malnourished as well.
Photo Credit : Reuters