(Cover illustration from here)
By Deborah Pranis
Over 10 000 people were forced to evacuate Manam Island in 2004 because of a volcanic eruption. The 10 km wide island that lies on the north coast of Madang province.
Manam Islanders were relocated to care centers on main land Bogia. According to Robyn Borausiki a Manam Islander, there was five care centers established at the Bogia District.
It has been nine years after the volcanic eruption and Manam Islanders are still living in the care centers. However, a few have decided to return to their shattered island despite warnings from authorities that the volcano on the island is still active and may erupt again.
The reallocation of Manam Islanders was the solution to their problem in terms of safety back then however it came with many challenges.
“We lost our land and even most of our cultural values. And land dispute with local landowners at the care centers has become all too common,” said Robyn.
According to Robyn the national, provincial and local level government has failed to fully address issues faced by Manam Islanders such as access to health and education.
“With the loss of our land we do not have the resources to support us. Most families cannot afford to pay for basic education. If we had land we will be able to cater for such services. The land allocated to us in the care centers does not fully meet our needs due to the increasing population and the continuous land dispute with local landowners makes it even more impossible ,” says Robyn.
Foreign assistance to Manam Islanders has declined over the years. According to Patrick Matbob a journalist and a lecturer at Divine Word University, it is quite difficult for Manam Islanders to receive foreign assistance because the government itself has to be organized and committed to addressing their issues first.
As for Manam Islanders such as Robyn life is a struggle.
“Education maybe the only hope for us Manam Islanders to have a good future but the opportunity and costs of being educated is another issue all together,” said Robyn.