The emergency situation has been considered overcome and now the Government is focusing on long-term community health care and improvement program in Asmat.
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Following all out efforts involving several ministries, police and military, among others, measles outbreak and malnutrition problem in remote Asmat District in Papua Province, have finally been overcome.

Since the plague affected Asmat in September 2017, a total of 71 people, mostly children, had died due to malnutrition and measles outbreaks.

Based on data received from Asmat Humanitarian Task Force, until Jan 30, there were still 26 inpatients in Asmat in which 19 people of them were treated in Asmat Regional Hospital, and seven patients were treated in the Hall of Indonesia Protestant Church of Asmat due to malnutrition.

Earlier, a total of 47 people had been treated in the church in which 40 people of them have returned home.

Health Minister Nila Moeloek on Jan 31, 2018, said as many as 13,300 children in Asmat District, Papua Province have been vaccinated as an effort to control the epidemic of measles.

Not all sub-districts in Asmat District, however, get the vaccination due to difficult terrain.

The ministry has alternately deployed medical personnel and delivering aid packages every 10 days to handle measles and malnutrition in Asmat.

The medical personnel provided assistance in hospitals and church halls, Moeloek revealed.

"Some people have returned to their homes. However, if they do not get any health supervision from medical institutions, there could be recurrence of the disease," she explained.

The emergency situation has been considered overcome and now the Government is focusing on long-term community health care and improvement program in Asmat.

"We have reported to the President that we are now entering a stage of community health care and development there, because we have overcome the plague through an emergency response," Social Affairs Minister Idrus Marham said after accompanying President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) in a meeting with Seto Mulyadi, chairman of the Institute for the Protection of Indonesian Children (LPAI), at the Presidential Palace, in Jakarta, on Feb 5, 2018.

Minister Marham planned to visit Makassar, South Sulawesi, to discuss cooperation with the University of Hasanudin in community health care and improvement in Asmat. The university will send a team of doctors to Asmat.

The minister believes that the problem solving in Asmat District must be integrated, cross-sectoral, comprehensive, and sustainable.

A number of ministries should work together to solve the problems of infrastructure, environment, education, health and others in the area.

Besides, the problem handling should be based on cultural and regional characteristics, he added.

"The involvement of Indonesian National Military and Police relates to humanitarian operation. All people who help solve the Asmat`s problems are heroes because we work together," he said.

Papua Provincial Police Chief Inspector General Boy Rafli Amar had earlier revealed that the number of people suffering from malnutrition in Asmat District of Papua had reached betweem 10 and 15 thousand.

He cited various factors that had contributed to cases of malnutrition in the district including its remote location; lack of access to nutritious food and health and transportation facilities; as well as low economic level.

"Some rivers depend on tidal waters, which makes it difficult for boats to pass through them at any time to distribute food," he explained.

Amar remarked that the community health centers (Puskesmas) in Asmat lack basic facilities, such as paramedics and medical doctors to head the center.

He called on the Police Headquarters` Health and Medical Center to send its physicians to health centers in Asmat.

"The young doctors program and internship in Papua is expected to fill the vacant posts, especially for the Puskesmas head," he pointed out.

According to the police chief, two to three thousand vials of measles vaccine are needed.

"For backup, we need some two thousand to three thousand vials of vaccines, so that we can continue to inoculate the kids in the near future," he remarked.

The Papua police and Cendrawasih military regional command will establish a health task force to map out areas that are prone to the diseases and visit the areas to address the problem.

"In some areas, we will trace it. We have information on the epidemics in some other areas, such as in the Bintang Mountains," he revealed.

The National Defense Forces (TNI) deployed several ships to provide transportation access to assist the TNI medical personnel operating in Asmat District.

The Indonesian military has considered the deployment of KRI Yos Sudarso as a hospital ship to help tackle measles epidemic and malnutrition in Asmat district of Papua, according to TNI Chief Air Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto

The Military Chief, while visiting Asmat, ordered the integrated health task force to continue its services in Asmat until the next 270 days.

Hadi explained that the team has treated more than 600 children, who suffered from measles and malnutrition, during its humanitarian operation in Asmat.

It has given measles vaccine for 13,336 villagers, mostly toddlers, in 224 villages. The number of patients in Asmat hospital has dwindled.

Meanwhile, the central government has coordinated with the House of Representatives (DPR) to handle health problems in the hinterland areas of Asmat District.

"The health factor is not the only cause of malnutrition. There are many other downstream issues that trigger the problem," Minister Moeloek said in a hearing with the Parliament in Jakarta, recently.

Moeloek held a consultation meeting with the members and leaders of Commission VIII, IX, and X of DPR RI.

She explained that the health factor contributed to 20 percent of malnutrition and measles cases in Asmat. Meanwhile, other factors such as environment cleanliness, socio-cultural factors, and genetic factors contribute to 40, 30, and 10 percent of the cases, respectively.


Reporter: Fardah Assegaf
Editor: Heru Purwanto
Copyright © ANTARA 2018