Savu & Rai Jua News - Mar '05

Health office monitors outbreak

A 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.


Royal descendant survives fall

A 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 injuries.

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.


Food production dangerously low

Already 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 situation.


Fire destroys eight family homes

Fire 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 blaze.


Fuel drums explode injuring man

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 environmental impact.

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 costs.


Copyright © 2007 Ina Tali/Francesca Von Reinhaart.


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