Messah Island, Tucked Away in a Premium Tourism Area Without Premium Health Services

messah island

WEST MANGGARAI, EAST CENTRAL NUSA — About two months ago before this article was published, Muhammad Al Ashar was born with a sarong on a ketinting (wooden fishing boat) on his way to Labuan Bajo Hospital from Messah Island. The roar of the diesel engine became the background sound of the event when sailing the Flores Sea at half past 10 at night. It was bumpy, dark, and the strong wind blew away the tarpaulin. A thin light from a midwife’s cell phone tried to illuminate Al Ashar’s birth.

Herman (36)—the father of Al Ashar—was occasionally watching the condition of his wife, Roswinda (31), while steering the 8 x 1.2 meter boat. He wanted to hold Roswinda’s hand instead of steering the boat. However, he felt a little relieved that his parents were accompanying him. His focus was split. When his son was born, he was still halfway there. That night, Al Ashar was born prematurely-seven months old-with a weight of 2 kilograms.

Messah Island family portrait, ki-ka: Roswinda & Al Ashar.

Herman, showing the wooden boat used when his wife gave birth to Al Ashar.

From Messah Island to Labuan Bajo Hospital takes about 1 hour by sea and 15 minutes by land. On the afternoon of the previous day, Herman had just returned home after fishing for five days. That afternoon, Roswinda suddenly felt severe abdominal pain even though it was not yet her due date.

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The landscape of the Flores Sea region, Labuan Bajo from the dramaga of Messah Island.

Roswinda then checked herself at the Puskesmas Pembantu (Pustu) of Messah Island, Pasir Putih Village, Komodo District, West Manggarai Regency. The health worker recommended that she be immediately referred to Labuan Bajo Regional Hospital if the intensity of the pain persisted into the night. Yes, the pain did not stop, but that night it was difficult to find a boat, many of which were being used at sea. Time went on. The situation pushed them to Labuan Bajo Regional Hospital.

The atmosphere of pregnancy check-ups at Pasir Putih Pustu..

Pregnant women from Messah Island wait for their turn for a prenatal check-up at Pasir Putih Pustu.

The head of Pasir Putih Pustu, Syahmuddin, said that there are categories of emergency, non-emergency and non-emergency situations. He admits that emergency situations can occur at any time. Not only in childbirth situations, but other serious illnesses. It often happens at night and adds to the emergency situation. In addition to childbirth, there have also been incidents of death on boats on the way to the hospital.

“Health services on this island are hampered by the lack of boats or ships, weather or seasons, light or dark months, dry or low tide. Even at night, coordination to find boats for transportation is hampered because the residents may be sleeping, and it is difficult to find diesel (boat fuel),” admitted Syahmuddin.

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Pasir Putih Pustu health service officer conducts home-to-home health assistance.

“There are stand-by Water Pol boats, but they have to wait a long time because they are on other islands. Meanwhile, we don’t have a health boat specifically for transportation or emergency services. In fact, residents of neighboring islands also often seek treatment and access health services here (Pustu Messah),” he said again.

Portrait of Pasir Putih Pustu Head, Syahmuddin.

Portrait of Fishermen at sea in Labuan Bajo.

Messah Island is a small, densely populated island tucked within the beautiful charm of Labuan Bajo. The island is inhabited by ±2,174 people with ±400 houses, a high growth rate from previous years. Despite being included in the Komodo National Park Premium Tourism Area, Messah Island’s health services are not as premium as its tourism.

messah island
Messah Island family portrait, ki-ka: Herman, Roswinda, & Al Ashar.

“Hopefully together, we can alleviate the needs of Messah Islanders in accessing their right to health services, especially in emergency situations like the story Al Ashar told. In this case, there is no special transportation in Messah to carry patients, namely the Ambulance Boat. And the hope is that the residents of Messah Island are also equally aware of the conditions and potential here,” said Reita Annur who represented the Dompet Dhuafa Health Division Program. (Dompet Dhuafa/Dhika Prabowo)