Much has been said about relief supplies from the Government reaching the volcano displaced Manam Islanders in the Madang Province, but that’s only after an eruption, like the minor eruption last year which forced the government to act.
The fact is that these people have been displaced since the year 2004, and have been living at the Care Centres in Bogia since then, away from their island home.
Forced away from their island home, the volcanic Manam Island, they were moved to three different locations – the Potsdam, the Asarumba, and the Mangem Care Centres.
Care Centres yes, but are they being cared for?
I took the time to visit the islanders at all three Care Centers and found they are starved and without food.
“We are most hungry and cannot help ourselves at this time. We’ve forgotten what eating 3 meals a day means,” said Cathy Maeda, a displaced Manam island mother, speaking in between sobs.
“My son is crying because he’s hungry, I could only share my tears with him,” said Rose Sila, another mother at the Asarumba Care Centre, while fresh tears continue to flow out of her unclosed eye lids.
A father, Joe Amira, joined in and added that the clothes they are wearing are the only ones they have left, and they have no idea what will happen next as they are living on land which belongs to someone else.
With the elections just around the corner, the Manam Islanders are worried that the government is deserting them and candidates may only be running back to them when they need power; power that’s never been used to help them come out of their suffering,12 years on.
“We are from Papua New Guinea, the Prime Minister and everyone in Moresby must be concerned about our wellbeing,” said Jerald Soagili, an ex-teacher now living at the Asarumba Care Centre.
The school year has begun, but there seems to be no hope for their children who will just roam the Care Centres looking for food.
“School has started for children around the country, our children to go we cannot even afford to find food to feed our stomachs,” Kenny Bolu, the Vice President of Biang village on the island, now residing at the Potsdam Care Centre pointed out.
Life away from their island home began in the year 2004, that’s 12 years ago.
Now these are a group of ‘Internally Displaced People’ as termed by the Madang Provincial Disaster Office who highlighted that they should by all means be nurtured by both the National and the Provincial Governments.