Thu, 03 Aug 2000

Government to boost health care in Irian Jaya

JAKARTA (JP): The Ministry of Health will launch an intensive health care program in Irian Jaya this August in order to improve community health in Indonesia's easternmost province, which is below national standard.

The program begins on Tuesday with a three-day polio immunization campaign and distributing high dosages of vitamin A to some 292,000 infants below five years of age.

Director General of Communicable Disease Control and Environmental Health Umar Fahmi said Vitamin A was needed to prevent pneumonia, which is the leading cause of death among infants in Indonesia.

"The prevalence of death caused by pneumonia among infants in Irian Jaya and the eastern provinces is high," Umar announced on Wednesday.

Umar noted that in eastern provinces, like West Nusa Tenggara and Irian Jaya, 70 infants out of every 1,000 were less than a week old when they died from pneumonia, compared to other provinces where 45 died out of every 1,000.

Pneumonia is also the most common health concern among adults in Irian Jaya, followed by malaria and diarrhea.

"That's why we are giving infants high dosages of Vitamin A, so it can restore their body cells," he added.

"As for polio, we're giving immunization to prepare for the rainy season," he said, adding that the higher the rainfall, the more likely the humid conditions would help the polio virus spread.

Some Rp 7.5 billion (US$833,333) has been allocated by the government and other funding organizations, including Unicef, to finance the three-day program.

Minister of Health Achmad Sujudi said health conditions in Irian Jaya were poorer compared to other regions.

There is a lack of qualified human resources and medical facilities and limited accessibility to health services due to its difficult natural terrain.

Irian Jaya, which has an area of 421,981 square kilometers, is three times larger than Java, and has a population of only 2,098,310.

Eighty-five percent of the people there live in rural areas.

According to the Ministry of Health there are only ten hospitals and 1,034 community health centers throughout the province.

Ministry officials claim that a follow-up program will be implemented after the initial phase with the aim of improving health services, including providing better equipment, medicine and medical staff.

The ministry also plans to hold a workshop and open a medical school at Cendrawasih University in Jayapura. (09)