ACTNews, ASMAT – Motor boats and traditional wooden boats (kole-kole) are the only means of transportation in Asmat regency. To take us from one village to another, there’s no motorcycle, let alone a car, because the only way available is to cross the jungle through the river that connects each village. The travel is difficult, but ACT’s effort to respond the malnutrition and measles epidemic must go on.
After arriving on Saturday (20/1) afternoon in Agats District, Asmat, ACT’s Emergency Response Team immediately prepared nutritious food package to supply the public kitchen that had been set up before by the local government officials in Agats.
But it didn’t stop there. On Monday (22/1), the distribution continued. There was another long journey by speedboat to reach Agats’ neighboring districts.
Despite being located close to Agats, the other districts afflicted by malnutrition and measles epidemic is still difficult to reach. It takes hours of journey accross the forest to get there.
Since early in the morning, the journey had begun. Nurjannatunaim, a member of ACT’s Emergency Response team said that, for the whole day, her team travelled to two regencies that are even more isolated than Agats.
“We began the journey early in the morning. Our first stop was Siret District, then to Suator District, the farthest from Agats. It takes at least 2-3 hour travel by speedboat,” said Nur in Agats on Monday (22/1) morning.
Fish in exchange for instant noodles in Siret
From Agats, it takes more than two hours to get to the rows of stilthouses in Siret. We, ACT’s Emergency Response Team, met the village chief. We received the information that the children in Siret were the most affected by the malnutrition and measles epidemic.
The team leader of the health post for the malnutrition and measles epidemic in Asmat, Septian Herpriyono, said that, prior to the arrival of ACT’s team, the local government along with Indonesian National Army (TNI) had brought several disease-afflicted children to be treated in Agats Regional Hospital (RSUD Agats).
“But then we received another news that one child suffering from measles is being treated in Yaosakor clinic. We visited him. This kid looked feverish, and his whole family was taking care of him for the whole day. We also gave nutritional food packages to help his recovery,” Nur said.
From Yaosakor, the speedboat engine roared on. ACT’s Emergency Response Team then moved to Waganu village, still in Siret district. In Waganu Village, the malnutrition cases was also spreading in recent weeks.
Nur mentioned that the knowledge of the local Waganu villagers regarding nutritious food was very limited. Their daily consumption was likely influenced by the settlers that came to their village.
For example, ACT team found a fact that instant foods became the staple food of the local villagers.
“Imagine, in Waganu Village they still use the barter system. The fresh fish they catch were exchanged with instant noodles. Moreover, their definition of eating vegetables is to add a little vegetables to their instant noodle soup. This is the cause of the malnutrition epidemic in Asmat,” Nur added.
Visiting Waganu Village, Nur and her team started educating the local villagers about nutritious food and basic health. Dozens of packages of nutritious food were also distributed to the children of Waganu.
After Waganu, they had to keep moving even though it’s getting late. The four-stroke speedboat machine turned on once more. They continued to Kampung Jinak in Suator District, a district even more isolated than Siret district.
Arriving at Kampung Jinak around the time of ‘Asr (afternoon prayer), the Emergency Response team found the same condition. The children ran around, looking very thin.
“The bones of their limbs were seen bulging and their bellies were distended. Kampung Jinak in Suator District seems to be the most under-developed compared to other villages. Based on our data, more than 80% of children suffer from malnutrition. The number reached more than 30 children,” said Nur.
Before leaving Kampung Jinak, ACT’s Emergency Response team distributed dozens of nutritious food packages. “We gave these food packages to the children and their mothers, and we give a little education about healthy food consumption. Alhamdulillah, the mothers in Jinak smiled brightly. They promised to change their diet so that the malnutration won’t happen again,” Nur concluded.