Martina Wanago was sick. In fact, she was sure she would die. She had contracted HIV, which has reached epidemic proportions here in Indonesia’s remote and restive province of Papua. And like many of those infected, she didn’t know what was wrong with her.
“All I could do was just wait for God to call me,” Wanago said, closing her eyes as firelight flickered on her face in a traditional roundhouse in Kambele, a remote artisanal mining village deep in cloud-shrouded mountains.
But it was here, in this unlikely spot, that she found salvation. Or rather, she found treatment – at the Waa Waa Hospital in the nearby community of Banti.
The hospital was built by Freeport McMoRan, one of the world’s largest mining companies, based in Phoenix, Arizona. It is one of very few positive developments that the industry has brought to indigenous Papuans.
In fact, Papua’s resource wealth is intimately connected to its tortuous past half-century, which has included a foiled attempt at independence followed by an armed rebellion in which Indonesian security forces have killed tens of thousands of indigenous people.
A more recent consequence of mining and militarisation is that – along with an underfunded healthcare system – they have contributed to an HIV epidemic in Papua.