Epidemic outbreak in Lanny Jaya Regency causes death of 37 villagers

Multiple local media outlets have reported the deaths of 37 villagers between 1 January 2017 and 25 April 2017 in the Awena District of Lanny Jaya Regency, Papua Province. The alleged reason for the deaths was an epidemic diarrhea outbreak in the villages Tinggira, Nambume, Eyumi, Uragabur, Yugimia and Indawa. At least four villagers had to be hospitalized in Tiom General Hospital, where they received medical treatment.

According to the secretary of the Lanny Jaya health department Mrs Dolly Kogoya, the diarrhea epidemic occurred because the villagers had consumed water from a water reservoir which was contaminated with human and domestic animal excrements. The water had not been cooked prior to consumption. The Lanny Jaya health department has responded by distributing pans to boil water and deploying two doctors and five nurses to the affected areas where they should provide medical treatment in the affected villages. However, responsible government institutions had not taken notice of the epidemic outbreak until April 2017.

During previous years similar incidents have repeatedly happened in other remote highland regencies of Papua Province. Insufficient equipment in rural health care institutions and a lack of adequate health monitoring and response mechanisms remained strikingly evident. These shortcomings were highlighted when a pertussis epidemic broke out in the remote highland regency of Nduga, killing least 51 children and three adults within a span of three months in late 2015. Malnutrition enabled the rapid spread of the epidemic.