Over the last two years, at least 100 children and babies have been reported suffering from scabies and other diseases related to poor sanitation and lack of clean water in the remote hamlets of Songan in Bangli regency.
Calling it a current issue, the Bali Health Agency promised to immediately assign a team to assess the matter, as stated by the agency’s head, Ketut Suarjaya, on the sidelines of the ongoing 3rd East Asia Ministerial Conference on Sanitation and Hygiene in Nusa Dua.
“I will assign a team to look into the issue in Songan. Scabies is actually a treatable disease that does not require expensive medicine. The most important thing is to completely treat all the infected villagers because scabies is highly contagious,” said Suarjaya.
As reported to Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika in a public discussion over the weekend, the founder of Anak Alam (Nature’s Children) community, Pande Putu Setiawan, stated that there were at least 100 children and babies with an advanced stage of the skin disease, scabies, in Alengkong and Bukit Sari hamlets in Songan, Bangli regency.
“Half of some 100 students at SD 7 Songan elementary school in Alengkong have had serious scabies infections over the past two years. About 50 more babies in Alengkong and Bukit Sari are also infected. We reported the problem this past month to Bangli health agency, but there has been no response,” said Pande.
While not being the only sites of scabies infections, these two villages are currently the most affected areas among the 12 hamlets in Songan.
Pande regretted that diseases related to poor access to basic sanitation and clean water could harm the children’s school performance and their futures. “A few years ago, some of the children from this village actually represented the province in the national science Olympiad. They showed high academic potential, some are also talented in photography. It would be such a waste if we keep neglecting these children’s basic rights,” said Pande.
Most of the residents of remote villages on the island have low, if not zero, awareness of sanitation and hygiene, seldom taking baths due to water scarcity and drinking water that has not been boiled directly from rainwater reservoirs, locally known as cubing, or from the nearby Lake Batur — which Anak Alam claims has been polluted by pesticides. To make matters worse, the community health center in Songan has neither electricity nor adequate basic medicines, while only one visiting medical worker attends the center on an irregular basis.
Receiving reports and pictures of the infected children, Pastika acknowledged the island’s tough ongoing issue of poverty. “This island has plenty of remote areas, while prosperity is only present in a handful of places. We have to focus on solving this issue.”