Nduga Papua
Nduga refugees at a refugee camp in Jayawijaya Regency - Jubi/Arjuna

Cultural belief made hundreds of Nduga refugees rejecting the aid

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Wamena, Jubi – Roga Kogeya, a volunteer for Nduga refugees, said hundreds of Nduga people settling in some refugee camps in Jayawijaya Regency, Papua, have rejected aid from different groups due to their cultural belief.

“There are about twenty householders spread in twenty camps (in Jayawijaya) refusing aid because they wanted to hold their culture,” Kogeya told Jubi on Monday afternoon (30/11/2020).

According to the local culture, he explained, eating food from those who considered enemies during the war are prohibited for Nduga people. They believed they would get a hardship if they violate it.

“So far, they survived by only consuming taros or sweet potatoes they planted, which only cook simply, boiled or roasted,” he said.

Moreover, Nduga people are not only rejecting food, clothes or health services, but some of them are also not allowing volunteers to collect their data. Consequently, the volunteers have no precise data on the number of householders or refugees who refused aid.

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“They also prohibited us (volunteers) from entering their camp to collect data or deliver aid. But they allow us to come as a family who comes to visit, see and ask for their condition,” he said.

Another volunteer Tori Wandikbo said that Nduga people at refugee camps in Jayawijaya are also cautious to those who want to meet them. Although some refugees do not reject the assistance, the volunteer team does not allow random people entering the refugee camps.

“If an (aid) team wants to visit (the refugee camps), we are not saying ‘no’, but we want them to give us prior notice,” said Wandikbo.

It is because the volunteers wanted to confirm their intention, whether they purely come for helping refugees or for another purpose,” he said.

“We want to ensure that those who come are volunteers who want to help. We only want to protect the refugees,” he said.

Moreover, he said that the volunteer team does not want the Nduga refugees to become victims many times. These refugees have left their village for the last two years because of the security issue, while in the refugee camps, they continue to become victims. Different teams that met refugees have promised many things but no realisation.

“We don’t want them subjected to a project of interest of certain groups of people. They are already suffering, (we) cannot let anyone take advantage of their situation,” he said. (*)

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