Kuyawage Village Faces Its Doomsday

News and Press Release
Originally published
Kuyawage village in the highlands of Irian Jaya province, on the western half of New
Guinea island, is facing calamity due to severe food crisis. Kuyawage is just one among
more than 20 villages across the Jayawijaya highlands that have been hit by the long drought
and resultant food shortage.
During a visit to Kuyawage last week, World Vision journalist, Hendro Suwito, saw
with his own eyes how the drought and frost have completely destroyed sweet potato crops,
the main staple food of the local people. Sweet potatoes in the ground were either rotting or
had only recently started to sprout.

About half of some 8,000 persons living in Kuyawage, especially women and children,
have already left the village because there is no longer any good food to eat. "More people
will leave the village because we cannot live on rotting sweet potatoes," said Joni Murib, head
of Kuyawage tribal group.

Some 40 villagers have died over the last six months as a direct and indirect impact of
the disaster; half of the victims died within the last two months. Dorcie, a local health worker,
noted that some 20 persons came to the health service post during the last two months. "It is
twice the normal days."

Irian Jaya Governor Jacob Patippi, who visited Kuyawage on 21 October, could not contain
his tears upon seeing the extent of the disaster in the village. "It is far worse than I previously
thought," he said. "Just looking at all those withering plantations, we understand the
seriousness of this year's disaster here."

He also noted that what the press has reported over the last few weeks about the Jayawijaya
disaster was not exaggerated as earlier assumed by certain officials. "Their reports were based
on facts. The disaster is indeed very severe," said the governor.

Relief aide to Kuyawage village

Kuyawage village has received relief goods amounting to more than five tons of rice
paddy, hundreds of boxes of noodles, sugar, and salt. The aid includes three tons of rice, 100
boxes of noodles, sugar, and salt from World Vision.

This week, World Vision is also delivering food for children under 5 years of age, cooking
oil, cooking utensils, and other needed goods to Kuyawage.

The central government, meanwhile, has stepped up its relief efforts in Jayawijaya district.
Hercules aircraft belonging to the armed forces have been assigned to transport relief goods
and fuel to Wamena, capital of Jayawijaya. Helicopters also have been stationed in Wamena
to transport goods to remote villages across the highlands.

However, the relief goods are still far from adequate to meet the needs. World Vision so
far has received some US$20,000 in donations from churches and individuals. The funds are
being used to purchase relief goods that are in the process of being channeled to Jayawijaya.

"We will concentrate our relief efforts on Kuyawage, Pasema, and Holuwon villages,
which we consider as very critical," said James L. Tumbuan, director of World Vision
Indonesia. World Vision is also planning to organize a third meeting with church representatives
and businessmen to explore a more extensive relief effort for Jayawijaya.