Outbreak of Covid-19 like illness in a remote village in Papua, Indonesia

Wijnanda van Burg-Verhage, Elco van Burg

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleProfessional


The Covid-19 pandemic is hitting low- and middle-income coun- tries, where health care resources are already stretched. This article describes the spread of a Covid- 19-like illness in M20 (a pseud- onym), an isolated village without medical facilities in Indonesia. M20 is situated at an altitude of 6,700 feet in the central mountain range of Indonesia’s easternmost prov- ince, Papua. It is typically served on request by a small six to eight-seat aircraft, or reached by trekking on foot from other villages. The vil- lage consists of seven hamlets of two to six huts, separated by five to ten-minute walks. Villagers are closely related to inhabitants of other villages in the area, and visit each other often. In the villages
of the Papuan highland, men and/ or families sleep together in one hut, and children sleep with their mothers or families (sometimes up
to 30 people in one hut). The clos- est neighbouring village to M20 is about 1.5 hour by foot, with people visiting multiple times a week. The actual population varies with these interactions and ranges from 150 to 200 people. M20’s gender distribu- tion is estimated at 60% women, and 40% men, due to a combina- tion of a higher life expectancy of women (66.8 years compared to 63.0 years for men) and men spend- ing most of their time in towns.[1] Approximately half of the popula- tion is under twelve years of age. There are four to six matriarchs, and others are teenagers, young adults and adults in their thirties to fifties. Most men smoke, and most people live in huts with central fire pits, which are used throughout the day for cooking and during the evening and night for heating.[2] The closest government health centre is about three hours by foot, but trained
health workers are typically absent, as is common in this region.[3] In M20, lay health workers hold daily clinics where they perform primary health care and dispense medica- tion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-21
Number of pages3
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020

VU Research Profile

  • Human Health and Life Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Outbreak of Covid-19 like illness in a remote village in Papua, Indonesia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this