06/27/2005, 00.00
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Parents hide malnourished children in Moluccas refugee camps

The reconstruction and resettlement process of people displaced by the Christian-Muslim conflict is proving difficult: many parents deprive their children of medical care because they are ashamed of their emaciated appearance; clean water is scarce and there are outbreaks of malaria

Ambon (AsiaNews) – Health conditions are deteriorating in camps for displaced people in Ambon in the Indonesian archipelago of the Moluccas. Cases of child malnutrition and malaria are on the rise and parents hide their children out of shame, depriving them of essential medical care. Both local media and the Crisis Centre of Amboina diocese have denounced this.

While the demolition of temporary settlements is under way to make room for new houses financed by the government, 25 out of 159 children in Waihaong camp are malnourished. The number could be even higher because, as Wendy Pattisahusiwa, head of the medical centre of Waihaong community explains, when "doctors turn up, many parents close the door in their face". Pattisahusiwa is promoting random, door-to-door checks to assess the health situation in camps in the area. To keep on giving assistance to those in need, she has also launched an awareness campaign about the importance of proper nutrition for children.

Malnutrition is aggravating an outbreak of a malaria epidemic in the village of Wawasa in the island of Gorong – east Ceram. Thirty-five deaths out of 800 cases of infection have been reported. The dreadful sanitary conditions of the displaced people, who often do even have clean water available, complete the gloomy picture.

Between 1999 and 2001, an inter-religious conflict between Muslims and Christians in the Moluccas – where the two communities are more or less the same in number – led to 5,000 deaths and half a million displaced people. The displaced started to return to their places of origin after the 2002 Manilo peace accord. At the same time, barracks and tents where many of them lived for five years are being demolished. Even the Crisis Centre of the Amboina diocese has already pulled down several unsafe residences. Meanwhile, the Rinamakana Foundation and the diocesan social department are involved in assisting displaced people in the Ahuru area on the outskirts of Ambon, to rebuild their homes in wood.

To find out how to properly manage the resettlement of displaced people, the provincial government of northern Moluccas has given 575 families in Ternate camp the possibility of choosing between remaining in reception centres and returning to their cities of origin.
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