Porelea villagers outsmart death on a daily basis

Sigi – People living in the remote of Porelea village, Pipikoro district, Sigi regency, Central Sulawesi, put their lives on the line every day on account of a lack of public facilities and services.

The villagers’ tug-of-war with death starts in the morning when they go to the fields, which are located on the side of steep cliffs that can only be accessed by motorbike via narrow and rocky roads. One simple mistake can mean the difference between life and death.

“Just recently, a farmer died after falling off his bike when he wanted to collect coffee beans on his farm,” Agus, a local farmer and Porelea village secretary, told The Jakarta Post.

“He did not fall into the ravine. He hit his head on a large rock on the side of the cliff,” he added. Dangerous, routine trips to the farm are just one challenge Porelea villagers face in their daily lives. The absence of proper medical facilities also means that if a villager gets injured or falls ill, there is an increased risk of death.

“If a woman going into labor experiences issues it will be very difficult to save her life because we don’t have the facilities to help her,” Pipikoro district head Smar Tapoe said.

“The men in the village will have to carry her for at least three hours on a stretcher down the mountains to Gimpu and then, an ambulance from a hospital in Palu will get her. The ride to Palu will take another two to three hours.

“We also need to coordinate with other villages to clear the road. With such difficulties, most women going into labor in our village die on their way to Gimpu.”

Other public facilities that are lacking in Porelea include electricity, sanitation and education. Only a few households have access to electricity through generators. Most toilets do not have clean water and as for education, the village only has one elementary school that is run by only three part-time teachers.

“One teacher receives a monthly salary of Rp 75,000 [US$5.1],” Smar said.

“Most of the kids only get to finish elementary school. The nearest junior high school is in Gimpu and most of them do not want to be separated from their families at a young age.”

The only decent public facility in the village is a Salvation Army church. The church, which opened its doors in 2012, is the largest building in the village with three floors of solid cement, concrete and ceramics.

Senior tribal leader Abed Nego told the Post that the villagers built the church in nine years on their own. “We took the sand straight from the Koro River. It was a tough and grueling process but we managed to build our own church,” Abed said.

Budi, a facilitator from the Sulawesi-based Karsa Institute, said that the residents were determined to build the church because Christianity had been an integral part of their society since the 1800s, when the Dutch arrived in the Pipikoro region.

“One can only wonder how in the world it was possible for them to carry large pieces of wood and rocks from the river hundreds of meters up to their village through the dangerously narrow access road,” Budi said.(Hans David Tampubolon, The Jakarta Post | Feature)

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