The Humanitarian Crisis in West Papua: internal conflict, the displacement of people and the coronavirus pandemic

The ICP, together with the Foundation for Justice and Integrity of the Papuan People (YKKMP), the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Desk of the Papuan Tabernacle Church (JPIC Kingmi Papua) and the Papuan Institute for Human Rights Study and Advocacy (ELSHAM Papua) has published a new special report on the situation of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the central highlands of West Papua. The majority of IDPs in West Papua remain unreached by fundamental public healthcare and education services. Thousands of IDPs are forced to live in overcrowded conditions in temporary shelters or in households of relatives, facilitating the quick spreading of COVID-19 in the provinces of Papua and Papua Barat.

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Numerous cases of internal displacement due to security force operations in West Papua were reported from the regencies of Mimika, Intan Jaya, Puncak, Lanny Jaya, and Nduga between 2019 and April 2020. These operations against the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN PB) began on 4 December 2018 in Nduga in response to the killing of 19 government contractors and resulted in further armed clashes. Data collected by the ICP show that more than 41,851 indigenous Papuans from these five regencies were internally displaced between 2019 and April 2020. In 2019, 214 of these Papuans reportedly died as a result of sickness, malnutrition, exhaustion, and hypothermia.

The COVID-19 outbreak in the region has aggravated this humanitarian crisis. The authorities in West Papua are now expected to impose even greater restrictions on the freedom of movement and freedom of assembly, and it is likely that hospitals, which already lag far behind national care standards, and medical personnel will not be able to cope with the rising number of patients.

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