West Papua Human Rights Report
29 June 2008

Cholera outbreak in West Papua:   Indonesian Government response ineffective

New reports from Human Rights and Church sources in West Papua state that 85 people have died in a Cholera outbreak over the past 3 months in the adjacent Nabire and Paniai regencies of West Papua.

Previous reports by Indonesian authorities in early June stated 17 people had died. At that time Health authorities disputed figures from West Papuan Human Rights workers that there had actually been 34 fatalities if cases in the villages were counted.  

"This latest Cholera outbreak started in April and has continued through to June 2008. Based on information supplied from the ground the Institute of Papuan Advocacy and Human Rights believes that the Indonesian Health Department and Provincial government response has been grossly inadequate.   It appears that people were treated in the community health centers when people were able to physically carried there but the government response in those affected villages was very limited."

"Indeed for the Government personnel the response was a matter of mutual blaming and a refusal to take responsibility. Everybody in the Government has avoided taking responsibility and has blamed each other for what went wrong."

The Papua Health Office was reported in the Jakarta Post (June 4th, 2008,) as identifying an 'Ogawa-type vibrio cholera viral infection' following tests in Jayapura.

Cholera, which is a bacterial disease, attacks the gut lining with infected people quickly developing symptoms of severe diarrhea & massive fluid loss. The disease can be fatal within 18 hours if re-hydration & therapy does not occur.

This Cholera epidemic was first reported in Paniai in early April 2008 at Ekemanida village. It has spread to nearby villages at Kamuu and North Kamuu Districts. The villages where the disease was reported are Ekemanida, Idakotu, Dogimani/Idadagi, Makidimi/Egebutu, Ekimani/Nuwa, Denemani/Apagogi, Kimupugi, Dikiyouwo, Duntek, Boduda, Deiyai, Goodide, Idakebo, Mogou and Dogimani.

In March, April 2006, in the highland regencies of Jayawijaya and Yahukimo 178 and 33 indigenous West Papuans respectively died reportedly from Cholera epidemics.

Paula Makabory representing the Institute for Papuan Advocacy and Human Rights said, "Cases of fatal diarrhea, which include undiagnosed Cholera, have been increasingly reported in Nabire and Highland areas of West Papua in the past few years."

Paula Makabory also said today, " Earlier this month our organisation alerted the World Health Organisation (WHO) of this current Cholera outbreak but that organisation in Indonesia appears to have not responded.   We contacted the WHO because previous experience is that the Indonesian Government agencies and provincial government would not mount an adequate response."

"Although there are massive amounts of money available to government in West Papua that money is not being used to control the contagious diseases, which also includes HIV/AIDS, TB, as well as Malaria, in the indigenous population. Little of the Special Autonomy funds budgeted for health is being effectively.   West Papua remains closed to access from international NGO and the media so none knows what is happening."

"The Special Autonomy process which Jakarta set up 7 years ago is not serving the peoples education and health needs. Many West Papuans view the combination of lack of health services and military occupation as deliberate and 'Genocide'."

"West Papua must be opened up to the world so the basic human rights including the right to adequate health of Indigenous West Papuan can be promoted. There is a new set of diseases which have never been experienced by remote & isolated highland communities which are continuing to spread into these communities."

"West Papua should be opened to international health organisations to assist local communities in developing the ability for detection and treatment of disease and to assist in public health generally, including pre and post natal care of mothers and babies."

"Talk by international countries such as Germany of swapping Indonesia's international debt in return for implementation of health programs by the Global Fund[1] will be most effective in West Papua if there is increased political freedom.   International attention is necessary so that the critical health services can be rapidly implemented. The indigenous communities must be given the freedom to join in this health reform so they can help themselves. "

Paula Makabory said, "There is a need for a major rethink about how community health and human rights is addressed in West Papua as the indigenous people do not trust the Indonesia Government. The international community, NGOs and Governments should be encouraging local health projects which are necessary to respond to the health crises in West Papua.'

"If the West Papuan people are not empowered in the field of health, the health of the West Papuan people will continue to deteriorate."

For further information contact,
Paula Makabory +61 402547517
Dr Anne Noonan +61 2 99601698
Matthew Jamieson +61 418291998