minor outbreak of fever, upper respiratory
infections and diarrhoea has recently hit the
islands of Savu and Rai Jua. No deaths have yet
been reported, however the majority of victims
are children, who are especially vulnerable when
not properly treated. Many Savunese cannot afford
even basic medicines, so the regional health
office in Kupang has asked clinics on Savu and
Rai Jua to report on the outbreak, so that the
additional medical needs can be met.
descendant of the royal lineage in Kudji Ratu an
ancient kingdom of Eastern Savu has suffered
severe injuries, having fallen over 10m from a
tree top in the village of B'odae in East Savu.
Agustinus Bunga (B'unga), known locally as
Mahari, was fortunate to have been within earshot
of neighbours, who hurried to his aid, as he lay
helpless at the base of the tree, with broken
bones in his arm, leg and ankle. There are grave
concerns for his hip and spine, which may also be
broken. Mahari, who is in his mid-fifties, also
lost five teeth and broke his jaw in the fall.
Without any doctors on the island, Mahari will
have to travel to Kupang for treatment. However,
travelling in his condition is not recommended,
so he will be resting in the care of family and
friends until his condition improves.
Fortunately, a doctor in Kupang was kind enough
to send some pain killers on news of his
Well known throughout Savu and Rai Jua, Mahari is
highly respected throughout the district, where
he performs various cultural functions, as well
as mediating in civil disputes. Despite his
standing in the community, Mahari is still just a
poor subsistence farmer, whose ability to farm is
now unlikely, given that he may not recover fully
from the accident.
facing a failed harvest, due to unseasonably dry
weather, farmers on Savu are now losing their
livestock to an unknown virus. Every day, cows,
buffalos, horses, goats, sheep and pigs are dying
from the disease, which remains unidentified, as
there are no veterinarians on the island.
"The animals just suddenly look tired and
unhealthy. Then, two or three days later, they
just die. We cannot consume them and we do not
know if we will be able to harvest anything at
all this year. We've had hardly any rain."
said a resident of Kudji Ratu in East Savu.
The losses are compounded by the fact that
farmers have used their best seed, which will
subsequently be lost in the event of crop
failure. Instead, seed will have to be purchased
from Kupang, where good quality may not be
readily available. The People's Consultative
Assembly in Kupang is said to be monitoring the
destroyed eight family homes in the village of Ei
Mada Kee (Eimadake), west of Bolou, in East Savu.
Nobody was injured, however the eight families
lost all their possessions in the fire, which
spread from one of the kitchens. The families are
all relatives of (Ama Lega) Weti and have been
living in the neighbourhood for decades. It is
traditional for Savunese communities to live in
close proximity, occupying family land adjacent
to their house of origin.
House fires are a common occurrence on Savu. As
recently as last November, two family homes were
burnt down outside Kuji Ratu. Once a fire takes
hold, there is little residents can do but to
look on as their homes are destroyed. They have
no fire engines or any such means of fighting a
One man suffered severe burns
when fuel destined for Savu exploded on board a
vessel as it was being prepared for departure
from Kupang. The accident occurred in the small
harbour of Namosain, around 9am on the 17th of
February. Fire fighters were despatched from
Kupang, however they were unable to fight the
blaze. The motor boat was loaded with 87 drums of
petrol and much of the fuel ended up in the
harbour, though nothing was done to minimise the
The financial loss is estimated to be Rp.100
million, which is over US$10 000 or 8 000.
The Rotenese boat owner said that the loss was
devastating to his family and those of his crew,
who all depend on the vessel for income.
Fuel shortages are common on Savu, which is
becoming increasingly dependent on imported fuel,
as modern technology gradually alters the
society, replacing traditional methods of
transport with motorcycles, lighting with
generators and cooking with kerosene stoves.
Despite the growing demand, the market is
inadequately serviced, due to high transport
Copyright © 2007
Ina Tali/Francesca Von Reinhaart.
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