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The neglect of Josephstaal

| My Land, My Country

LAE – A mother and her child make the two day trek to Josephstaal.

For an outsider, it is difficult to comprehend the hardships that the people of Josephstaal go through every day.

From a functioning station in the 1970s and 1980s, Josephstaal, is now just a shadow of its former self.

Much of the infrastructure built during a time when vehicles could travel here is decaying.

While taxpayers pay for salaries of public servants, those posted to Josephstaal don’t want to be there.

The two day trek and unreliable transport is a motivation killer for those not used to the rural hardships of Papua New Guinea.

“I want to know where the local level government president, the Middle Ramu MP and the governor are,” says Paul Endukuru, a peace officer in Josephstaal.

“Since the airstrip and the road closed, life has become extremely difficulty for our people.”

The solution is simple.

Josephstaal needs a road and a bridge.

But the political will to get the road fixed is painfully absent.

The bridge was destroyed by flood years ago and has not been replaced.

Many of the older kids can’t remember the last time a plane brought  in supplies.

The Middle Ramu district administration has not invested in the road and the provincial government has remained silent.

Government buildings unused and decaying
Government buildings unused and decaying

After two months of political instability in Waigani, where millions of kina were spent so generously on hire cars, hotel bills, food, entertainment and promises of big projects, seeing the people of Josephstaal suffer because of 30 years of government neglect makes you angry.

When you travel to Josephstaal, you get to understand the difficulties the people face.

The first thing that confronts you, is the uncertainty of transportation.

Unless you have everything prearranged, you really don’t know when the next vehicle come to the drop-off point. Or when the next boat will take you up river to where the track to Josephstaal begins.

Travel is especially hard for families with small children.

Making this journey, gives you an appreciation of why government workers don’t find Josephstaal part of an attractive career path.

Church health workers, like Patrick Angrai, have to go through this at the beginning of the year and then again each three months when they have to pick up medical supplies in Madang.

If the boat doesn’t come, they have to wait for it.

The two day trek to Josephstaal goes through thick jungle and sago swamps. Text books, medical supplies, food and building materials are carried on foot.

At Josephstaal, many of the people have given up hope. They’ve become used to the neglect. And they’ve tried their best to adapt.

But it’s hard to ignore the hundreds of school children whose opportunities for education have been cut short by ongoing government neglect.


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