Hunger in Indonesia
With the population estimated at over 250 million people, Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world. It has been enjoying strong economic growth in the past decades and it is the largest economy in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Despite the impressive economic growth, however, it is still a lower middle-income country. Hunger in Indonesia continues to be a significant issue.

Poverty and Hunger in Indonesia

Poverty is still concentrated in rural areas, with 14.3% of the rural population living in poverty in 2014, accounting for more than 60% of the total poor. Additionally, challenges of high food prices and unequal access to food remain unresolved, despite increasing trends in food production and availability. As a consequence of poverty and food scarcity, 19.4 million Indonesians are unable to meet their dietary needs.

A 2019 report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the International Food Research Institute (IFPRI) found that about 22 million people suffered from chronic hunger in Indonesia between 2016 and 2018. Despite the strong growth that Indonesia has made in the agricultural sector, many families across the country still engage in traditional agricultural activities that are low-paid. This leads to hunger and stunting in children.

The Double Burden of Malnutrition

The impressive economic growth has brought about substantial improvements in many aspects of human development in Indonesia. The mortality rate of children under five has dropped from 85 out of 1000 births in 1990 to 31 in 2012. The prevalence of underweight children is also low at 5.4%.

However, the stunting rate in Indonesian children remains widespread. Approximately 37.4% of children under five in 2013 suffered from stunted growth. Stunting in children, a sign of chronic malnutrition, comes with lifelong consequences. It interferes with other development processes of the body, including brain development, which has damaging effects on intelligence, performance in school and productivity at work later in life.

Malnutrition can have detrimental effects very early on in life. When children receive inadequate nutrition in the womb, they become more prone to obesity when their body consumes more food. This in turn leaves them vulnerable to other non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. This is the double burden of malnutrition that Indonesia faces. It is estimated that 8.9% of adult women and 4.8% of men are obese, while 8% of the women and 7.4% of men in Indonesia have diabetes. Additionally, more than 1 in 4 women of reproductive age suffer from anemia.

The negative effects of malnutrition are not only felt by the individuals suffering from them but also by society as a whole. It is estimated that losses due to stunting and malnutrition account for 2-3% of Indonesia’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Efforts to Decrease Hunger

In an effort to secure food for low-income households, the government of Indonesia set up a program called Raskin to deliver subsidized rice monthly to the most vulnerable households. Under this program, the eligible households could purchase 15kg of rice each month for a fifth of the market price. Each year, the government distributes 3.4 million tons of rice to a target population of 17.5 million people. With the annual budget of $1.5 billion, Raskin is Indonesia’s largest social support program.

The government also coordinates with nonprofit organizations globally to help combat hunger in Indonesia. Due to its size and geography, Indonesia is particularly vulnerable to natural disasters, which cause food security in many communities. The World Food Program (WFP) is working closely with the Indonesian government to improve nutrition and the quality of food. It also helps mitigate the effects of natural disasters on food security by providing policy advice and technical assistance.

Moving forward, it is essential that the government and other humanitarian organizations continue to make hunger in Indonesia a priority. With continued efforts, hopefully the nation will be successful in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2: zero hunger in Indonesia.

– Minh-Ha La
Photo: Flickr

gender inequality in IndonesiaAs the fourth most populous country in the world, Indonesia continues to battle poverty and conditions of inequality for women. However, Indonesia has made strides in improving access to education for girls. The nation also has one of the highest literacy rates in Asia. Various U.N. programs are promoting women’s access to learning while advancing the benefits of women in Indonesia’s marketplace. Here are many ways in which gender equality in Indonesia is improving.

Women in Politics

Indonesia implemented a democratic system in 1998. Since then they have implemented laws that decrease the inequality gap between men and women. For example, one law requires that political parties be composed of at least 30% of women. 2018 even saw Indonesia’s female finance minister voted Best Minister in the World by the World Government Summit. Women in Indonesia have also been influential in promoting certain bills that grant women more rights. The 2019 sexual violence bill, for example, identifies nine different forms of sexual harassment all of which would be made illegal. Discussion of this topic is taboo in some social settings in Indonesia, which makes support for this bill by women crucial.

Grassroots Movements

Women activists and Indonesian civil society organizations (CSOs) have played a role in breaking away social norms regarding inequality. With international support, these CSOs have impacted 900 villages over 27 provinces. This has positively affected more than 32,000 women from more than 1,000 groups in 2018. At the village level, these organizations promote women’s involvement in decision-making and focus on reducing violence against women.

Economic Empowerment

In 2019, U.N. Women launched an online learning platform that aims to empower women business owners called WeLearn. The platform offers free curricula to women entrepreneurs. WeLearn also provides access to lessons from industry experts and fellow women entrepreneurs.

A 2018 study of Women Empowerment Principles in the top 50 companies in Indonesia found that there was a minimum of one woman on every board of at least 84% of the companies that participated in the survey. These companies have also implemented initiatives to empower women in the workplace.

Access to Education

Access to education in Indonesia is also improving for girls. Indonesia has one of the highest literacy rates for women among Asian countries, with 99.7% of women ages 15–24 literate in 2018. By 2019, almost every child in Indonesia attended school at the elementary level. In fact, there were slightly more female students enrolled than male students. Furthermore, females were shown to do better than males.

Looking Forward

Intergovernmental organizations are also promoting gender equality in Indonesia. For example, the UNDP Indonesia Gender Equality Strategy and Action Plan 2017-2020 is committed to addressing four aspects of gender equality in Indonesia:

  • Empower women to achieve a better standard of living and sustainable employment
  • Work with local groups to grant women better healthcare access
  • Support the involvement of women in the sustainable use of natural resources
  • Improve access to responsible and fair public institutions, especially for women who are in more vulnerable situations

Overall, conditions of gender equality in Indonesia are improving through the involvement of women in politics and grassroots organizations. This is especially possible with the support of international organizations like the United Nations. Continued efforts to empower women entrepreneurs and communicate the benefits of women in the marketplace are essential to realizing greater economic benefits and achieving greater gender equality in Indonesia.

– Anita Durairaj

Photo: Wikimedia

surfing helps relieve global poverty Surfing is one of the oldest but most under-appreciated sports in the world. In California and Hawaii, it is more widespread than in the rest of the U.S. combined. Australia is the only other country that hails surfing as one of its national pastimes. The birth of the sport came about in Polynesia where natives would draw cave paintings of people riding on waves as far back as the 12th century. At some point, the Polynesians traveled to the Hawaiian Islands. There, the Polynesians transferred the sport of surfing where it transcended to religious-like status for Pacific Islanders everywhere. Surfing has become an altruistic tool for the less fortunate around the world. Despite surfing’s lesser-known status in America, the sport has made an impact in underprivileged countries, particularly regions in Southeast Asia. Here is how surfing helps relieve global poverty.

SurfAid

SurfAid, a nonprofit organization founded in 2000, comes from a grassroots background. It has grown in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand. Over the years, it has become one of the top charities in surfing, assisting local governments and communities to prevent mother and child deaths. In Indonesia, a mother dies every three hours and 20 babies die every other hour. SurfAid offers support by providing materials to observe the health of mothers and children.

For example, a simple, yet important material like a weighing scale allows doctors to ensure that patients’ body weight is on par with their age. Other materials include measuring tapes, record books and materials for teaching. Most importantly, SurfAid helps improve water and sanitation issues through building water tanks, water taps and toilets. Having clean water and sanitation prevents diarrhea for children under the age of five, giving them a better chance to survive.

SurfAid staffers also provide equipment and seeds for gardens as well as malaria nets. With this increase in practical support, basic hygiene has decreased diarrhea by more than 45%. Antenatal care also has been implemented into programs to educate mothers about healthy pregnancies. This care and education help prevent complications from occurring during pregnancy and childbirth. Additionally, through birth spacing, the process of mothers giving birth every two to three years, women can potentially “reduce infant mortality by 20%.”

SurfAid’s Work in Indonesia

SurfAid has also aided the island of Sumba. Located in Eastern Indonesia, the island is plagued by poverty, food insecurities and famine, making daily lives difficult. This has resulted in more than 60% of its children under five suffering from malnutrition.

SurfAid developed a project called the HAWUNA program, meaning ‘unity’ in Indonesian. The program works with more than 7,500 people in 16 different communities in the sub-district of Lamboya Barat to improve food insecurity. Additionally, the program educates parents on childcare in order to combat malnutrition. With access to clean water, sanitation and healthcare, there have been massive improvements in healthcare and healthy weight gain across the community.

SurfAid’s project development also includes the availability of support services. The organization’s collaborations with the communities are developed through detail-oriented results. Collaborations take into account the health, livelihoods, beliefs and social structure the people of each community have.

The Story of Dharani Kumar and Moorthy Meghavan

Another way to see how surfing helps relieve global poverty is through the story of Dharani Kumar. A 23-year old native Indian fisherman, Kumar started surfing in his teens in Kovalam Village using polystyrene foam as surfboards. After surfing for nine years under his mentor, Moorthy Meghavan, Kumar became a surfing champion in his homeland in 2015. The hobby he picked up as a teen did more than just provide an outlet for Kumar’s talent. Surfing also allowed Kumar to improve his networking opportunities around the world, as well as learn the English language.

In 2012, Kumar’s mentor, “Moorthy Meghavan founded the Covelong Point Social Surf School.” As a result of this school, Kumar and his group of friends pledged to stay away from drugs and alcohol. As a rule, if students started using or drinking, they were kicked out. Through this school, Meghavan was able to turn his dream of guiding poor, disadvantaged children away from addiction into a reality.

When Meghavan dropped out of school in sixth grade, he started fishing for a living to provide for his family. Though passionate about surfing, Meghavan was virtually unknown in the international surfing community. However, he still forged a plan to help children fight their way out of poverty through surfing.

Meghavan’s slogan, “No Smoke, No Drink, Only Surf”, has become instilled in the program. The program has paid dividends for locals looking for direction in their lives. Though substance abuse is somewhat prevalent in Kovalan Village, his guidance through his own experiences mixed with his passion for the sport has reflected on others. Though not a household name in surfing, Moorthy Meghavan has become a local legend by not only helping Dharani Kumar rise as a surfing star but also in guiding children to a better life.

The Impact of Surfing

What started out as an ancient art form by native Polynesians has now become an international phenomenon. Whether it’s providing assistance to those living in impoverished conditions or guiding children to a better lifestyle, there is no doubt that surfing helps relieve global poverty.

– Tom Cintula 
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Indonesia
Since the devastating impact of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis (AFC), Indonesia has shown profound economic growth. Since 1998, it has boasted a greater than 5% compound annual GDP growth rate, ahead of the global average of below 3%. Indonesia now ranks as the 16th largest economy in the world, up from 36th in 1998. Concomitant with this economic improvement has been a noticeable reduction in poverty in the country. Most recently, poverty in the country is below 5% of the population versus 67% 30 years ago. By comparison, approximately 10% of the global population lives below the international poverty line. Yet despite this promising data, poverty in Indonesia remains a major issue. Here are six facts about poverty in Indonesia.

6 Facts About Poverty in Indonesia

  1. The rate of poverty reduction is slowing, but poverty is low. Indonesia’s efforts to grow its economy showed great results in the years immediately following the AFC. Rapid industrialization, increased global integration and a focus on domestic infrastructure all helped in this regard. This resulted in relatively dramatic improvements in poverty. After an eight-year period of decline, however, the rate of reduction has slowed to 9% in recent years. Despite a slowing in the rate of reduction, the percentage of the Indonesian population living in poverty is at the lowest level since 1984 (4.6%).
  2. CARE, an international humanitarian agency, has been working to assist Indonesia’s poor particularly during emergencies. Indonesia is prone to natural disasters like earthquakes and floods, so CARE has worked to provide Indonesians with food, shelter, water and medical supplies. After the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, CARE aided 350,000 Indonesians and helped them rebuild their communities. Non-governmental organizations like CARE are key to assisting the government in protecting Indonesia’s poor after frequent disasters and emergencies.
  3. Income disparity is growing. Indonesia’s economic growth has flowed disproportionately to the wealthy. The country’s Gini coefficient, a measure of a country’s income disparity, has increased from 28.5 in 2000 to 38.1 in 2017 (lower is better). Oxfam reported that in 2014, the richest 1% of Indonesians owned 50% of the nation’s wealth. Not surprisingly, Indonesia’s rural inhabitants are worse off than their urban counterparts, with about 1.5 times more incidences of poverty on an absolute basis. One can also see this in the geographic distribution of poverty. Eastern Indonesia, the more rural part of the country, fares worse. President Joko Widodo has noted that improving income inequality is one of his top priorities. He has taken some steps to decrease income disparity, including providing direct cash transfers through its Program Keluarga Harapan, creating more social assistance programs, investing in infrastructure and creating health and education protections.
  4. The near-poor are a significant group in Indonesia. While Indonesia’s reduction in poverty is impressive when including those who are near-poor, the results are not as positive. Many in Indonesia live precariously close to the poverty line and are at risk of falling back into poverty. The Asian Development Bank highlights that over half of the poor in Indonesia were not poor the year before. Furthermore, a quarter of Indonesians will suffer from poverty at least once every three years. Even though only 5% of Indonesians live below the poverty line today, as many as 25% live just above it.
  5. Indonesia must watch inflation. Since 2016, inflation in Indonesia has been below 4%. The government and the Bank of Indonesia established the range of 3% to 4%. However, with so many living at or close to poverty, changes in prices can have deleterious impacts, disproportionately so on the poor. Statistics Indonesia notes that food represents a 43% weight in Indonesia’s CPI basket, putting a degree of focus on food prices, especially given their historical volatility. The Indonesian government has focused in this area, recognizing that stable rice prices are essential for steady economic prosperity. Nevertheless, food prices remain exposed to exogenous shocks.
  6. COVID-19 is having a huge impact. The Indonesian government did not impose restrictions relating to the COVID-19 pandemic until April 10, 2020, almost six weeks after the identification of the first case in West Java. Unfortunately, the economic fallout from COVID-19 will have material effects on Indonesia’s poor and near-poor, underlining the fragility of the last 30 years of Indonesia’s efforts. In mid-April, 2020, Indonesia’s finance minister predicted that Q2 GDP growth could fall to about 1%, after the weakest rate of growth in nearly 20 years in Q1. COVID-19 cases surged rapidly after President Widodo hesitated to implement a nationwide lockdown. In response, he declared a national health emergency and worked to increase the number of test kits, personal protective equipment and ventilators available in the country. Additionally, he passed a stimulus package worth $8 billion to stimulate the economy, with $324 million going towards helping low-income households.

These six facts about poverty in Indonesia have shown that Indonesia’s government has put much effort into improving the conditions for its poor. Against a backdrop of economic growth, President Widodo increased spending on social assistance, health, education and infrastructure. Additionally, CARE’s continual aid has substantially reduced poverty in Indonesia since the AFC.  However, with so many near the poverty line, those results are fragile. With the unprecedented impact of COVID-19, much of that work could become obsolete.

– Harry Yeung
Photo: Flickr

Female Genital Mutilation
One of the most extreme and dangerous forms of discrimination against women is the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Some might not associate the practice with modern, cosmopolitan countries outside of Africa. However, the truth is that it is still quietly happening in a lot of communities in Southeast Asia. In fact, Female Genital Mutilation in Southeast Asia is more common than people previously thought.

What is Female Genital Mutilation?

FGM comprises all procedures that involve the partial or total removal of female genitalia, or other injuries to the female genital organs. FGM usually takes place on religious or cultural grounds and undertaken for non-medical reasons, leaving the girls with long-term health complications. International organizations, such as the U.N. and the WHO, universally consider FGM a violation of human rights and an extreme form of discrimination against women. While it has no health benefits, the practice is prevalent and often performed for cultural and religious reasons. The WHO estimates that more than 200 million women and girls have experienced FGM and that more than 3 million girls are at risk of this painful practice annually.

Female Genital Mutilation in Southeast Asia

While the procedure in many African countries commonly occurs as a ceremony when girls reach adolescence, FGM in Southeast Asia often occurs when the girls are in infancy, which makes it more hidden. Better known as Sunat Perempuan in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, people often quietly carry out the procedure on girls before they turn 2 years old and are aware of what others are deciding for their body. Muslims in Southeast Asia typically observe this practice and reside in countries such as Thailand, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia.

Singapore

Since FGM occurs quietly, the exact number of women who experienced it is hard to pinpoint. However, experts believe that it is highly prevalent within the Malay community. Based on some anecdotal evidence, some estimate that approximately 80 percent of the 200,000 Malay Muslims were victims of FGM in Singapore. There is no law banning the practice of FGM in Singapore, and the government remains overwhelmingly silent on the issue. Some clinics offer to perform the procedure for around $15 to $26.

Indonesia

Many in Indonesia consider Female Genital Mutilation a rite of passage and people have practiced it for generations in Indonesia, a country containing the largest Muslim population of all countries globally. The government estimates that about 50 percent of the girls aged 11 and under nationwide undergo FGM, while in some more conservative parts of the country such as Gorontalo, the number could be upwards of 80 percent. Local healers say that the practice would prevent the girls’ promiscuity in later life. There is also another widespread belief that God would not accept uncircumcised Muslim women’s prayers. Some hospitals in Indonesia even offered FGM as part of the “birthing packages,” which further legitimizes the procedure and makes it hard to eliminate.

The government has gone back and forth in its decision on the issue. In 2006, the government had banned the practice of FGM, but due to pressure from religious groups, it had moved away from the attempt four years later. Instead, to accommodate the religious and cultural considerations, the government issued regulations allowing for medical staff to carry out less intrusive methods to ensure more safety. In 2016, the women’s minister announced a renewed campaign to end FGM but again met with increased opposition from the religious leaders in the country.

Malaysia

A study in 2012 found that more than 93 percent of the Muslim women that it surveyed in Malaysia have undergone the procedure. In 2009, Malaysia’s Islamic Council issued a fatwa – a legal pronouncement in Islam, allowing FGM and making the practice mandatory unless considered harmful. The call for standardization of procedure by the health ministry in 2012 added more to the problem of FGM in Malaysia as many in the country consider it to be normal and part of the culture.

A New Generation

Despite international condemnation, the practice of Female Genital Mutilation in Southeast Asia is still prevalent and entrenched in traditions in many communities. The practice exists mostly among the Muslim community but is not exclusive to it. It is only until recently that FGM in Southeast Asia has gained more international attention, and more evidence on the prevalence of the practice is necessary to raise awareness on the issue. Across Africa where the practice concentrates, some communities have started to question FGM and abandon the long-standing tradition. Hopefully, with the new awareness of FGM in Southeast Asia, the nations will soon put an end to the practice that has been putting the women in danger for generations.

Minh-Ha La
Photo: Flickr

 

The Link Between Agriculture and Poverty Reduction
The link between agriculture and poverty reduction has significant documentation. Developing countries that have risen from high levels of extreme poverty have seen improvements in agriculture and an increase in farmers’ wages that cooccur with drops in the poverty rate. According to an OECD report, one can attribute 52 percent of poverty reduction to growth in agriculture incomes. In addition, for a measure of 1 percent GNI growth, agriculture contributed the most to poverty reduction. The policy that seemed to work the most was significantly increasing the protection of agriculture exports by reducing high taxes on exports and reducing overly inflated exchange rates. The greatest advantage of improving agriculture is that the poorest of society benefits the most. The lower the literacy rates, the stronger the poverty-reducing effect.

Vietnam

Changes in Vietnam over the decades exemplify the link between agriculture and poverty reduction. It lifted its people out of extreme poverty by focusing on improvements in its agriculture sector. The poverty rate was northward of 60 percent in 1990 and fell to just 20.7 percent in 2010. Vietnam lifted an estimated 30 million people out of poverty in total. During that time, the government incentivized farmers to invest in their land. Instead of food shortages, the country was able to export its commodities at a surplus. Multilateral trade agreements formed, and the country moved from a closed economy to one open to trade. In the 1980s, Vietnam had food shortages, and today it is a major exporter of rice to world markets.

Indonesia

Some developing countries did not focus on developing their agriculture sectors. In addition to this, those countries experienced the opposite trend. In contrast to Vietnam, Indonesia slowed in poverty reduction last decade. Overall growth in this sector has been weak with researchers making little progress. The poverty rate declined by only half a percentage point in each 2012 and 2013, which was the smallest declines in the last decade. One of the reasons might be a recent trend where small farmers experience eviction from their land in favor of large companies. These companies then use the land for palm oil and rubber. However, are signs that suggest that the agriculture sector may be rebounding. In 2017, there was an increase in both agriculture employment and production. Currently, 32 percent of Indonesians work in the sector. Additionally, rice production went up to 75.4 million tons and up from around 70 million tons in 2014.

Guinea

Guinea is another country that focuses on other sectors for its economic growth. Mining makes up 80 percent of Guinea’s exports, and agriculture makes up the rest. Despite mining being a lucrative industry, it only employs 2.5 percent of the working population. Based on simulations using the 2014 population census, the poverty rate increased to 57.7 percent. Surprisingly, experts often cite Ebola as one of the causes, but low agriculture productivity is an equally large problem.

There is plenty of room for growth in this sector, both in terms of technology and land area farmed. In addition, farmers use very little agricultural inputs such as fertilizer and mechanization. In contrast, there are signs that agriculture is becoming more of a focus. The country has decided to invest in agriculture. In 2018, Guinea allocated 12.5 percent of its budget to agriculture, up from the current level of 7.3 percent. Additionally, IFAD and the Guinean government reached an aid agreement that will raise wages for 65,000 rural farm families and aims to increase family farm production.

For the poorest nations, choosing the sector to focus on reducing poverty is important. Evidence suggests that the link between agriculture and poverty reduction is strong. Developing countries that invest in the agriculture sector and promote policies that benefit farmers tend to fare better in this respect than countries that focus on other sectors.

Caleb Carr
Photo: Flickr

Facts about Sanitation in Indonesia
With 264 million inhabitants, Indonesia is one of the world’s most populous countries. It is also the largest economy in Southeast Asia, with average income levels dramatically increasing in the last 20 years. Nevertheless, millions of Indonesians lack safe water and continue to live with sub-standard sanitation facilities. These 10 facts about sanitation in Indonesia will give a brief overview of the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector in this nation.

10 Facts about Sanitation in Indonesia

  1. Open defecation: Almost 25 million Indonesians do not use toilets. Instead, they defecate in open spaces, which can contaminate water sources and expose others to diarrheal diseases. One out of four Indonesian children under the age of 5 suffers from diarrhea, making it the leading cause of child mortality in the country.
  2. Low-quality water: Only 7 percent of wastewater is treated in Indonesia. A 2017 survey in a rich urban center in Java found that nearly 90 percent of water sources and 67 percent of household drinking water were contaminated with fecal bacteria. Another survey conducted by the Indonesia Infrastructure Initiative found that 38 percent of 7,000 households across 22 Indonesian provinces reported issues with their water quality.
  3. Improved water supply access: Indonesia has made moderate but steady progress in improving access to improved water for its population. Around 84 percent of the population had access to improved water supply in 2011, a commendable increase from 70 percent in 1990. While access in urban areas changed very little during this period, from 90 percent to 93 percent, the rural population enjoyed most of the increased access, where the rates increased from 61 percent in 1990 to 76 percent in 2011.
  4. Improved sanitation access: The rate of access to improved sanitation grew at 6.5 percent annually from 2006 to 2015. However, nearly 100 million people were still living without improved sanitation in 2015, the majority of them from rural areas. While three out of four people in urban areas have access to improved sanitation, less than half of the rural population has such access.
  5. USAID’s effort: USAID is committed to ending preventable child and maternal deaths worldwide by expanding and improving WASH services. In addition to funding innovative microfinance programs, USAID also trained and developed small-scale construction contractors to ensure access to sustainable and safe toilets for these communities. In 2015, USAID has helped more than 2.2 million Indonesians gain access to improved water supply and more than 250,000 people with improved sanitation services.
  6. Economic cost: Approximately $6.3 billion, the equivalent of 2.3 percent of national GDP in Indonesia, is lost due to health and water-related issues. Poor sanitation caused at least 120 million cases of disease and 50,000 premature deaths in Indonesia, costing the nation $3.3 billion annually. The economic costs of polluted water also exceed $1.5 billion per year.
  7. Remote island communities: Remote coastal communities are most affected by the lack of clean water and sanitation services. These communities heavily rely on spring and rainwater, which are inadequate sources in dry seasons, and thus they are forced to use contaminated standing water and seawater. SurfAid, an NGO supported by the Australian government, has partnered with these coastal communities to construct clean water facilities as well as to organize educational campaigns to promote handwashing behaviors and sanitation. The organization has successfully increased access to clean water and sanitation coverage in Nias from 10 percent to 95 percent.
  8. The Citarum River: Around 35 million people residing in the Bandung metropolitan area and the greater Jakarta region heavily depend on the Citarum River for agriculture, water and electricity. However, the water quality of the river has decreased dramatically over the past two decades, making it one of the world’s most polluted rivers with severe pollution from lead, aluminum, manganese and iron. With $500 million in funding from the International Monetary Fund and the Inter-American Development Bank, the Indonesian government declared a seven-year Citarum cleansing program, committing to making Citarum water drinkable by 2025.
  9. Menstrual hygiene: In Indonesia, inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene at schools can present great challenges for adolescent girls, especially during menstruation. A survey in 2013 found that most girls never change menstrual pads or cloths at school due to ill-equipped facilities and inadequate water. Only 9 percent of the latrines accessible to girls in urban schools are considered functional, clean and light, posing excessive encumbrance for menstruating girls in the remaining schools. Almost one in seven girls had missed at least one school day during their last period.
  10. Handwashing: The Ministry of Health estimated that only 12 percent of children between the age of 5 and 14 wash their hands with soap after defecating, 14 percent wash their hands with soap before eating and 35 percent wash their hands with soap after eating. Realizing the importance of hygiene promotion in children, Red Cross organizes campaigns in schools that teach basic hygiene principles through different activities such as hygiene kits distribution, drama and operetta performance to deliver the messages effectively to children.

These 10 facts about sanitation in Indonesia highlight some of the commendable progress that the government and different NGOs have made in the WASH sector and also describe some challenges that need to be addressed urgently. Ensuring universal access to clean water and improved sanitation should be one of the priorities for Indonesia, as it is a basic human right and vital for the socio-economic development of the nation.

– Minh-Ha La
Photo: Flickr

Indonesia Ends Child Marriage
In child marriages, underage brides usually must quit school to settle down with their adult husbands. According to many international human rights treaties, the minimum recommended age of marriage is 18. In Indonesia, 50,000 girls are married by the age of 15. In September 2019, Indonesia made an important step to end child marriage by raising the minimum age requirement of brides. If Indonesia ends child marriage, maybe other countries will follow suit.

The Problem

In Indonesia, the general consensus is that if a girl has any association with a boy to whom she is not related, they marry as soon as possible. The assumption is that any heterosexual relationship can and will lead to sex and pregnancy. Girls are often pressured into marriage at a young age.

Every year, 340,000 Indonesian girls will get married before they turn 18. Once they settle down, 85 percent of married or pregnant girls drop out of school. This is often due to schools discouraging married or pregnant girls from attending. Furthermore, 16-year-old girls are often too young to become responsible mothers. However, birth control in Indonesia costs $3 a month, which is more than many women and girls can afford.

The New Movement and Its Implications

Indonesia’s 1974 Marriage Law permits girls as young as age 16 to get married. However, under Indonesia’s 2002 child protection law, anyone under the age of 18 is considered a child.  These competing laws create a situation where girls still marry young despite legally being children.

On September 17, 2019, Indonesia announced that it was raising the minimum age requirement of brides in order to end child marriage. Now, women have to be 19 before they can get married. It is expected that this new motion will open young women up to new opportunities that were previously only available to young men. The country hopes to see full, legal implementation of this change within the next three years.
However, this new motion may not curb child marriages completely. Families can appeal to religious courts to have their children unofficially married off before they reach the legal age. As a result, around 1 percent of Indonesian girls are still getting married before the age of 15.

The Future for Indonesia

Child marriage remains a problem in Indonesia even as the world enters a new decade. Girls feel pressured to marry young and may not wait until the legal age to do so. Therefore, the country still needs to work to change the attitudes of its citizens. However, if Indonesia ends child marriage by raising the minimum age required to marry, maybe it will help encourage these girls to stay in school.

Cassie Parvaz
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Teaching Indonesia’s Impoverished Population to Fish “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” – Ancient Proverb. The Indonesian government is taking the above saying to heart. It is doing its best to teach the poor population how to provide for themselves rather than merely providing aid. The government has grouped poverty reduction programs in Indonesia into three clusters: Social assistance, community empowerment and microenterprise empowerment. Simply put, cluster one is similar to giving Indonesia’s impoverished population fish while cluster two is giving the population a fishing rod and teaching them to fish. Finally, cluster three is facilitating fishing by providing a boat.

The Three Clusters

  • Social Assistance – This cluster of poverty-reduction programs in Indonesia is focused on providing direct assistance to poor households. In the past, the government had taken measures to implement “a single ‘combo’ card-based cashless payment system” in order to promote financial inclusion. It also reallocated fuel subsidies to directly assist poor and vulnerable families. Furthermore, the non-cash food assistance program has transformed the delivery of nutrition-sensitive food assistance. This is the first step to reducing Indonesia’s impoverished population.
  • Community Empowerment – With a more macro focus when compared to social assistance, this cluster gives poor communities the social funds they need to improve basic social and economic services. The programs included in community empowerment fall under PNPM. PNPM is an umbrella policy that attempts to self-help community capacity by creating jobs and achieving a better standard of community welfare. Examples of PNPM programs include social activities, such as the activity of posyandu (a community-based vehicle to improve child development) and BKM, which provides free medical service. It also includes economic activities such as women entrepreneurs weaving traditional clothes and micro-credits for women entrepreneur groups. The PNPM programs have seen great success in recent years with the community participation level reaching 39 percent and per capita consumption increasing 9.1 percent.
  • Microenterprise Empowerment – This third cluster looks at providing access to credits for microenterprises without having them be “hindered by the requirement to provide collaterals.” Most of these enterprises are independent and “highly labor-intensive,” employing “low levels of skills and technology.” According to the SMERU Research Institute, microenterprises provide income and employment for significant portions of workers in rural and urban areas. Microenterprises comprise more than 50 percent of the nation’s GDP. Each unit microenterprise can absorb 1-5 workers. In addition to the independent enterprises, “the government provides a subsidized guarantee scheme at 70 percent in which the government pays the premium” to find unbankable businesses that lack collateral.

The above programs have already achieved a great measure of success. They have reduced poverty by half from 24.3 percent in 1999 to 10.4 percent in 2013. However, there is room for further improvements. In 2014, “only one-fifth of the poorest 10 percent in Indonesia” had received all the benefits to which they were entitled.

Future Reformation

Possibilities for reformation in cluster one include a two-way updating system to the connection between the target database and the program-based beneficiary lists. This would help major social assistance programs reach the right people. Since needs change during certain times, having additional monitoring and evaluation to fill in the gaps in program design will improve the planning of the programs. Moreover, redesigning the Credit for People Initiatives by providing an incentive for smallholders for productive assets accumulation would leverage the poor with adequate access to the program and increase the impact of clusters two and three as well.

To add to the effectiveness of programs that are reducing Indonesia’s impoverished communities, the government has also established a national team, chaired by the Vice President. It is the Vice President’s hope that with the specific changes being looked at in each of the clusters, Indonesia will eventually bring the vast majority of those in poverty to a more sustainable economic situation.

Shvetali Thatte
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Sanitation in Southeast Asia
In many developing Southeast Asian countries, governments seldom prioritize sanitation when there is a limited spending budget. However, over the past decade or so, many countries in the area have experienced steady economic growth which has led to gradual improvements in sanitary conditions for the people. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Southeast Asia.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Southeast Asia

  1. Increased Coverage for Improved Sanitation: As of 2018, 95.5 percent of Southeast Asia’s urban population and 85.6 percent of its rural population had access to improved drinking water. This marked a 2.4 percent increase in access for urban locations and an 8.9 percent increase for rural areas since 2005. Approximately 80.8 percent of people living in urban areas and 64.3 percent living in rural areas had access to improved sanitation such as flush toilets and piped sewer systems in 2018. Access to improved sanitation is also increasing at greater rates than improved water in most countries.
  2. Improved Health Due to Better Conditions: Around 0.71 percent of all deaths in Southeast Asia in 2017 was the result of unsafe sanitation conditions. This percentage has dropped 2.3 percent since 1990 and is lower than the world average of 1.38 percent. Cases of infectious diseases, diarrhea, malnutrition and other negative health effects that open defecation caused have also gone down as the share of the population practicing such actions decreased. As for countries where substantial toilet infrastructure is still lacking, such as Cambodia, Timor, Laos and Indonesia, scientists are working to design and install new flush toilets. One team at the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok has received a $5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to fund such a project.
  3. Creating Comprehensive National Policies: Certain developing Southeast Asian countries lack comprehensive regulations regarding the design and construction of sewers and other sanitation systems. Existing regulations often fail to take variations in local conditions into consideration and people do not always strictly enforce these regulations. Some also neglect to assign the responsibility of management to an institution.
  4. Establishing Institutional Management: Limited ability to implement sanitary systems and unclear institutional division of responsibility has caused gaps in service provision, resulting in low-quality infrastructure, delayed constructions and miscommunications. Multiple international committees have called for government officials to receive training in all essential aspects of sanitation management.
  5. Raising Awareness Among Policymakers: Internationally, the U.S. Agency for International Development recommended that local policymakers become aware of the benefits improved sanitation systems have regarding health, environment and economy through regional research collaborations and water operator partnerships. The intergovernmental Association of Southeast Asian Nations has also come together to discuss Indonesia’s progress in delivering improved water and sanitation to its people. Locally, increasing media coverage and discussions about sanitation are also helping the subject gain focus.
  6. Raising Awareness Among Local Community: Many locals are unaware of the dangers that lie in unsanitary defecation and do not understand the purposes of an improved sewer system. In Indonesia, Water.org has held media sessions to encourage dialogue and awareness regarding sanitation. Similarly, many community health centers and international organizations are working to educate locals on the benefits of improved sanitation, as well as to inform them of the services and financial support available.
  7. Community-led Sanitation Installations: Community-led total sanitation efforts have drastically improved conditions in many Southeast Asian countries as self-respect became the driving force behind the movement. With help and guidance from local authorities, community households can get the financial and institutional support necessary to connect to the more improved sanitation systems.
  8. Financing On-Site Sanitation Installations: Government sanitation funding often focuses on the large-scale municipal infrastructure like waste treatment plants, tending to overlook the construction of supporting connection infrastructure necessary for on-site household sanitation systems. As a result, people have turned to local banks and other financial institutions for loans that would enable them to build the necessary infrastructure necessary to access improved water on a daily basis.
  9. Local Programs Improve Water Sanitation: There are several local efforts that are working to preserve Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake, Tonle Sap, so as to improve the lives of approximately 100,000 locals living in the surrounding area. The Cambodian enterprise Wetlands Work is selling innovative technologies, such as water purifying system HandyPod that uses bacteria to turn raw sewage into grey water. Meanwhile, the NGO Live & Learn Cambodia is in the process of testing new toilet innovations.
  10. Water Privatization Limits Accessibility: The privatization of water is a common phenomenon in Southeast Asia. In Indonesia, for example, European companies Thames Water and Suez have 25-year contracts with the local government in 1997 to provide water for the country’s capital, Jakarta. With the goal of ensuring piped water coverage for 97 percent of the popular by 2017, the actual number came up to only 59.4 percent. However, in Surabaya, another Indonesian city, the government provided water publicly through the government and coverage reached 95.5 percent in 2016. Calculations determine that average water prices in the city are one-third of that in Jakarta.

These 10 facts about sanitation in Southeast Asia show how these countries are making consistent progress in procuring improved sanitation for their population. With the assistance of intergovernmental organizations and nonprofits, more people are now living under safe and sanitary conditions.

– Kiera Yu
Photo: Flickr