Refuge on the Fly

Refugees in Kiunga

My name is Menasseh and my brother is Robin. My family fled the conflict in West Papua in Indonesia and settled here in Kiunga, Western Province, along the Fly River.

West Papuans in Western Province

I am lucky because the local school allowed me to join the classes. Everyday I climb up and down a high ladder on the way to school or upon returning home.

Refugees in Western Province

It is because the place my family calls home is built very high up on stilts.

Refugees in Western Province

The high stilts is important for our safety. The banks of the Fly River where our houses stand are flooded for most of the year and so our homes must be built high above the water.

Refugees in Western Province

Because we are refugees, we can not build our homes on better land. Only the banks of the Fly River do not have owners so our families built their homes on it.

Refugees in Kiunga

Life along the river is difficult. We can just fall into the deep water and die. But in summer, when there are less rains, the river water eventually subsides.

Refugees in Kiunga

The river becomes so small and shallow that boats and dugout canoes get crowded in the remaining water.

Refugees in Kiunga

But the river is less dangerous this time of the year and our older brothers are allowed to play on the boats.

Refugees in Kiunga

My mom could relax with my younger sister on the ground under the house when the Fly River is not flooded.

Refugees in Kiunga

And my aunt and my nephews will have access to a small natural spring for bathing.

Refugees in Kiunga

Other kids can just come and go without needing a boat or being told to be careful by their parents.

Refugees in Kiunga

Yes, summer is the best time of the year because we can walk on dry land beneath our homes.

Refugees in Kiunga

As for me and my brother and other young kids, we have learned to enjoy living high up on stilts. This place is our home, our refuge along the Fly River.

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