Deaths, serious health risks along Fly
Isaac Nichiolas and Neville Togarewa | Post Courier
The National Executive Council may intervene and get the Health Department to do something about reports that people along the Fly River system in Western Province may be dying and having serious medical and health problems.
Commenting on Post-Courier reports on Wednesday this week about the issue, Health Minister Michael Malabag said yesterday that he is “very concerned” about the serious health problems faced by the people living along the Fly River system and he will be taking the matter up to the National Executive Council.
Mr Malabag also confirmed that reports on the medical and health problems along the Fly River had been done before but no action has been taken to date.
“As Health Minister I am very concerned. There have been several reports done on the health of the people alleged to be affected by the OK Tedi mine. I will be seeking advice from the technical people within the Department of Health and I will advise Cabinet on what actions to take,” he told the Post-Courier yesterday.
Mr Malabag, whose mother is from the South Fly district of Western province, said he appreciates the concerns raised by the Members of Parliament from Western province.
The MPs who highlighted the problems affecting the people of Western Province on Tuesday include Member for North Fly and Minister for for Arts, Culture and Tourism Boka Kondra, South Fly MP and Deputy Speaker of Parliament Aide Ganasi, and Member for Middle Fly Roy Biyama. Minister Malabag said:
“I want to assure the MPs from Western province that I will look into their concerns and check the health situation affecting our people. “It’s a concern also because when we had the conference at the Medical Symposium with focus on minerals, environment and sustainability, these issues were at the centre of discussions. I will take the issue up to the National Executive Council for appropriate action.”
He said an independent study, as well as the national government, must conduct their own investigations to map a way forward to resolve the problem once and for all.
“Our very own mothers and daughters are affected and we cannot continue to ignore their plight,” Mr Malabag said.
In the meantime, reports from villages along the Fly River system suggest that women are continuing to suffer and die.
The latest information reaching Port Moresby comes from MRSW Nareme Makai, who is the women and children’s representative on the Manawete Trust Region of Ok Tedi mine-impacted villages on the Fly River system.
Mrs Makai sent a text message yesterday to the Post-Courier saying:
“I visited one village on Thursday and I am very concerned about what is happening. I just want to let you know that from Wariobodoro (village) alone, 17 women have not been treated and (only) three are on medication. “Altogether, there are 20 women in Wariobodoro alone. I was there yesterday (Thursday) and confirmed the situation on the ground.”
Meanwhile, there is a meeting with representatives of Ok Tedi Mine Limited and the mine-impacted landowners and the people further down the Fly River system.
Details of the meeting were sketchy late yesterday, but the outcome may mean the future of Ok Tedi Mine, one of the biggest open-pit mines in the world which has brought billions of kina in revenue and other benefits to the people of PNG over the last 30 years.