Indonesia

Mission to Maluku: Bringing hope amidst war

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Originally published
By Salmah Nur Mohamed/Azeezah Jameelah
From March to August 2001, MERCY Malaysia sent 25 volunteers in four humanitarian missions to Maluku. They treated civil war casualties and the sick when no other medical facilities were available, as they were either closed or destroyed. The mission members went to Ternate and Ambon, where most of the injured were. They ran the outpatient clinic and performed operations at Klinik Salahuddin, MERCY Malaysia's first sustainable project. In addition, they provided medical aid at a few camps for internally displaced people (IDP).

Moved by news of the plight of civil war casualties in Maluku, MERCY Malaysia sent its first medical relief mission there, led by its president Dr. Jemilah Mahmood in March 2001.

Upon their arrival, mission members contacted Pos Keadilan Peduli Umat (PKPU), a local humanitarian organisation that helped identify a suitable place to set up the clinic. The island of Ternate was chosen as a base point. It was deemed safe as there weren't any signs of conflict. An abandoned bungalow was converted into an operational outpatient clinic.

A few weeks later when the second mission team came, work on the bungalow was still underway but the medical volunteers began providing treatment.

Every two to three weeks, doctors treated a seemingly unending flow of men, women, and sometimes children, who came in by boat. Thankfully, their load was lightened by the assistance of local medical volunteers, who comprised fresh medical graduates.

People from the surrounding islands, who were too poor to pay for medical aid, also came to the clinic. Fortunately, MERCY Malaysia was able to cope as it had brought in ample medical supplies.

One of the most unforgettable events at the clinic, as related by one of the doctors, was the amputation of the leg of a neighbouring island's resident. His poverty had prevented him from getting medical treatment to save his leg.

Aside from treating patients, MERCY Malaysia volunteers also travelled to nearby islands by boat to provide medical aid to the residents. They tended to IDPs who had set up temporary shelters around the islands. These people were in a terrible state as they had fled with literally only the clothes on their back. Some lived in an old abandoned factory where thousands were cramped together. Food and clean water were scarce. To help ease their burden, some of the money donated for the Maluku relief mission was used to buy them food.

At present, the clinic is independently manned by six individuals, which include two doctors and a midwife. MERCY Malaysia plans to organise follow-up missions to help out at the clinic in future.