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Mysterious Illness Kills Dozens of Children in Indonesian Village

FILE – Mosquito nets helped control malaria after an outbreak in the late 1990s. Today, a mysterious illness initially thought to be malaria has hit Papua, killing at least 41 children within three weeks.

A mysterious illness in Indonesia has killed dozens of children in a village in the remote eastern province of Papua in the past three weeks, leading to charges that the government has failed to take aggressive action.

At least 41 children have died of the unknown disease in Mbuwa, Papua.

Human Rights Commissioner Natalius Pigai accused the government of negligence in Nduga district, where Mbuwa is located, and told VOA he fears more deaths will follow if the government does not take immediate action.

"Children in Nduga died in a village with village standard health service distribution,” Pigai said, adding that if the government fails to take action, it is feared the illness will spread.

The government has yet to respond to the allegations, but the ministry of health sent a monitoring team to the village last week to find out the cause of the deaths. Their findings are still unknown.

Several media reports have quoted medical caregivers as saying the children in Mbuwa had similar symptoms before they died, such as fevers and diarrhea. At first, the caregivers suspected malaria, which occurred in other parts of Papua in 1998.

Mbuwa, which can only be reached by foot, is at the base of Mt. Trikora, about 2,500 meters above sea level.