West Papua

West Papua, or Irian Jaya as it is called by Indonesia, is the western half of the island of New Guinea, sharing a common border with the independent nation of Papua New Guinea. It is only 250kms from Australia.

According to the Australia West Papua Association, since 1962 an estimated 100,000 people have been killed or disappeared by the brutal military regime. Thousands have been raped and tortured and entire villages, especially in the highlands, have been destroyed. During the mid-1990s the Indonesia military systematically destroyed village gardens, causing widespread famine.

Health in West Papua continues to be a matter of major regional and international concern, according to the Australia West Papua Association. West Papua has half of all the diagnosed cases of HIV/AIDS in Indonesia (at 20 times the rate of the rest of Indonesia) Malaria remains endemic, and tuberculosis, including new drug resistant strains, is increasing. Infant mortality rates are over 100 per thousand live births and are amongst the highest in the world. (Half of the infant deaiths are due to Malaria). Maternal mortality rates is rising in many areas, due to malnutrition and increasing HIV/AIDS infections.

The WHO states that female literacy is the greatest protector against maternal mortality. However Papua has the seventh highest rate of illiteracy in Indonesia, with 200,000 people aged 12 to 45 years unable to read. In addition, more than 350,000 people over the age of 45 and living in rural areas in Papua cannot read and write.

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