The Wusuraambya tribe is part of a greater tribe with a common language but many dialects, with a population of possibly as many as 20,000 people scattered over a walking distance of 2-3 days.
Until recently the Wusuraambyans wore grass or bark skirts, bark capes, and a variety of arm bands, head bands, and necklaces decorating their upper bodies.
Their traditional houses are round, with steep thatched roofs, raised floors, fire pits in the middle of every house, and firewood for cooking and heating their houses stored in the space under their houses.Most people still use grass for their roofs but for trade stores and coffee-storage buildings they often put a corrugated steel roof on the building, partly to keep the coffee dry until it can be shipped, partly for security.
Wusuraambya has a government operated Elementary school and Primary school covering all grades from pre-kindergarten to grade 8. Since the nearest alternative public school is over five hours walk away, people hike for an hour or two to attend this school every day.
With a bit of help us the new “Sindeni Day Clinic” has been essentially completed and now in use. Along with outpatient, delivery, recovery, and other rooms it also has a scarcely stocked dispensary and a 12 bed ward. People come from hours away for medicine and medical attention. Two “doctors” attend to the sick, however when both are absent which happens frequently enough, Cathy takes over as the village nurse. Formerly aid post orderlies had very little practical training. Most of their knowledge was acquired on the job. In more recent years however most appointed orderlies are fully trained nurses, able to diagnose and treat most common illnesses including tuberculosis, malaria, meningitis, etc. They are also trained to give injections, do suturing, use IV’s when necessary, and many other things that only doctors would be qualified to do in western countries. When there’s no doctor the best trained nurse does it all. 🙂
The only source of income in Wusuraambya is coffee, an industry which produces possibly $50-$100 annual for the average household, not nearly enough to cover the cost of clothing, staples such as salt, rice, soap, matches, and other basic necessities, not to mention the annual schoolfees needed for attending the local community school. Students are expected to pay as much as $100 a year depending on the grade they are in, much more for high school in town where school fees include room and board as well.
Although “roads” have been hand-dug all the way through the area, vehicles cannot make it all the way into the tribe most of the time because of landslides, mud, and other obstructions. We did drive in an old landrover in 1998 shortly after a drought hit the area, but there have been no vehicles into the tribe since then.
Thus small aircraft are still the main transportation to and from Wusuraambya, and thus airstrips still require regular maintenance, fixing rain damage on the grass strips, maintaining proper drainage, cutting the grass, etc.
More and more people are walking in and out of the tribe however this has became very dangerous with the increasing number of armed hold-ups along the way. In March 2012 the female believers from all the local tribes walked out to a ladies’ conference in the Yagaria tribe. On their way back two groups were held up at gunpoint and lost a great deal of money, clothing, cell phones, and other goods.
As in all PNG tribes, there is a local elected counselor in every major village, and committee men appointed to conduct local village courts and also oversee community projects such as maintenance of the school, medical facilities, and airstrip.