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  • » 01/31/2018, 15.27


    Catholic solidarity vis-à-vis Papua emergency is a blessing, Agats bishops says

    Mathias Hariyadi

    More than 80 children have died with another 800 affected by malnutrition-related illnesses. The diocese has provided humanitarian relief to the most affected districts. The peculiar characteristics of the remote territory make the work of volunteers difficult and dangerous.

    Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Agats, a remote area in Indonesia’s Papua province, has been struck by a serious humanitarian crisis that has left more than 80 children dead with another 800 afflicted by malnutrition-related illnesses.

    Speaking to AsiaNews, Mgr Aloysius Murwito (picture 2), bishop of Agats, expressed the solidarity and closeness of Indonesia’s Catholics to the local population. This, despite the ongoing tragedy, is a “blessing”.

    For the past two weeks, the health emergency has been in the limelight, covered by national and international media, but Mgr Murwito had recognised it for some time.

    During Christmas festivities, the bishop had gone to Kapi, one of the diocese’s isolated parish in Sawaerma District, to celebrate the Vigil Mass. There he saw that many Asmat women who attended the service showed severe signs of malnutrition.

    "During that Mass, I was deeply moved by such a serious humanitarian crisis. I mentioned it in various homilies during the Christmas and New Year celebrations, in Asmat," Mgr Murwito noted.

    His sermon on 5 January echoed on social media, arousing media interest first in Papua, then across the country.

    AsiaNews met the bishop in Jakarta (picture 3), where he was involved in several interviews with national media to draw even more public attention to the emergency in the eight districts of his diocese.

    Asked about the unfolding of the crisis, the prelate said that the diocese, working with local authorities, had carried out relief operations in the most affected areas. Two teams were sent some days ago to help against diseases like rubella and measles, and hand out basic necessities.

    "We decided to work in two districts, about 20 villages," the bishop explained. However, the volunteers from the diocese and health workers face many difficulties on the ground.

    To begin with, they have to contend with the nomadic lifestyle of the indigenous population and the peculiar characteristics of their settlements. "Unlike other indigenous peoples of Indonesia, the Asmat actually practice nomadism. They usually go into the forests for days, before returning to their villages."

    In addition to this, technical issues also make it difficult to fight the spread of diseases. Reaching the settlements in fact involves long and costly trips on small motorboats (picture 4), in waters infested with crocodiles.

    The coming months will be crucial to reducing the suffering of the local population. The next step will be to increase awareness among the natives about health. "However, spreading the message is very difficult, due to the absence of an adequate communication system".

    Since the region is not served by an electricity network, there is no mobile connection. Nevertheless, the bishop is deeply grateful for the quick response of Indonesian Catholics, as well as non-Catholics, to the request for help from the local Church.

    "The emotions stirred up in the hearts of people across the country has led to donations and excellent initiatives in favour of the diocese of Agats, so that it can carry forward its humanitarian mission," Mgr Murwito explained.

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    See also

    19/01/2018 14:12:00 INDONESIA
    Papua, 61 children dead and 500 sick because malnourished. The Church's commitment (Photo)

    The diocese of Agats sends two teams to assist and distribute basic necessities in the affected villages. The peculiar characteristics of the remote territory make it difficult and dangerous to reach the most isolated settlements. In Jakarta, some Catholic humanitarian organizations and groups have set up a fundraising program. The Indonesian government deploys military paramedics. Critics of the government, accused of neglecting the remote eastern province.

    06/02/2018 16:12:00 INDONESIA
    Humanitarian emergency in Asmat district (Papua) "under control"

    Some 72 people have died, mostly children. About 650 children have contracted measles and at least 223 suffer from malnutrition. For Agats’s bishop, the goal is to develop a medium-term plan to provide good food to natives.

    17/01/2006 INDONESIA
    Church helps flood victims

    521 people are still missing after floods in early January which killed 76 people and left thousands living in emergency shelters. Local Catholics have thrown themselves into collecting and distributing emergency relief items and organising psychological support for survivors.

    10/03/2005 NORTH KOREA
    Caritas, ten years helping a hungry North Korea
    Caritas internationalis director speaks about his visit to the most isolated country in the world where health conditions are awful and children are extremely undernourished.

    29/12/2004 INDONESIA
    Catholics show compassion and empathy to Muslim Acehnese victims
    The death toll stands at 36,000 and keeps on rising. The Bishops' Conference of Indonesia has set up collection centres, urging Catholics to help out the people in the hardest-hit areas.

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