PETALING JAYA: A fear of losing their ancestral land, has seen most of the Orang Asli of Pos Bihai, Gua Musang, Kelantan, preferring to continue living in forest areas, without proper sanitation.
“The government has built houses for the Orang Asli of Pos Bihai, but most of them don’t want to leave their ancestral land as they are afraid that if they do, it will be taken from them,” said Wan Azman Wan Ismail of Lincoln University College (LUC).
Wan Azman, who is from the Faculty of Pharmacy, 25 LUC pharmacy students and four lecturers recently took part in an outreach programme together with the Islamic Medical Association of Malaysia (Imaret) and Kay Adventure 4×4.
He added there were fewer than 20 people who stayed in the homes – equipped with facilities, rooms and a kitchen – which are an hour’s walk from the settlements in the forest.
The group carried out a public health campaign in Pos Bihai, which in recent times has made headlines over the blockades set up to prevent loggers from having access to forest areas in Gua Musang, Kelantan.
During their visit, the volunteers carried out health checks on the Orang Asli, dispensed medication, conducted lessons on personal hygiene and games.
Wan Azman said the lack of proper sanitation in the forest and insufficient awareness on hygiene issues among the people of Pos Bihai were a cause for concern.
He said that the main problems were lice, fungal infections and tooth decay.
“We gave them shampoo for the lice and also taught them how to use shampoo properly on their heads, to wash their hands properly and how to brush their teeth too,” said Wan Azman, who is the faculty’s deputy dean of student affairs.
“Many of them don’t even have toothbrushes, so we also gave them toothbrushes and toothpaste.”
Wan Azman said they also provided paracetamol (Panadol) – which the Orang Asli community there call “ubat kuat” and use for any ailment – as well as topical creams for fungal infections, stemming from the moist conditions in the forest.
He said the Orang Asli community still need contributions from the public, in the form of toothbrushes, clothes, shampoo, soap and toothpaste, which LUC will be collecting before the next trip.
Wan Azman said such trips were part of their pharmacy students’ curriculum on public health.
“As a pharmacist, you meet a lot of people from different backgrounds with different levels of understanding of their pharmaceutical needs.
“So it’s important for the students to have the knowledge and communication skills to ensure patients are given the correct medication, explanation and advice on their uses.”