Green Growth Project
On Oct. 25, Indonesia launched the Tropical Landscapes Finance Facility (TLFF), a green growth project to finance projects that encourage eco-friendly growth and improve the lives of citizens in rural areas. The TLFF initiative will collaborate with the United Nations’ Environment Program and agents in the private sector, such as the French bank BNP Paribas.

The program will include a loan fund and a grant fund, leveraging public capital to stimulate economic development while working toward the Paris Climate Agreement goals. This will give access to long-term funds at affordable rates for farmers.

In the past, Indonesia lost a significant portion of its forests due to logging and intentional fires. The government tried to implement a permit scheme for deforestation, but the country still has the highest rate of deforestation globally.

According to U.N. figures, between 2000 and 2005, Indonesia lost 310,000 hectares of forest every year. The rate of deforestation rose to 690,000 hectares per year between 2006 and 2010.

Industrialization has driven workers out of the agricultural sector and into the industrial and services sectors. Yet agriculture remains the dominant employer in the country, with a workforce of 40.8 million people.

Palm oil is its largest export, and palm oil plantations have increased dramatically in the past decade. Forests are sliced to make room for palm oil plants. However, the price of this commodity has steadily declined and farmers are destroying the environment for a product that is losing its value.

The new green growth project will use public funding to unlock private investment. It is looking to make strides in the development of renewable energy and sustainable landscape management. The latter will minimize deforestation and restore degraded lands.

The green investment fund will stimulate the productivity of small farms without compromising the productivity of the land in the future. Chair of the Steering Committee of the facility, Dr. Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, told the audience at the launch event that “This ground-breaking and innovative financial platform, a world’s first, can transform the lives and livelihoods of millions of Indonesians in rural areas that deserve it the most.”

Officials hope the fund will steer farmers away from practices that deplete the land of its natural resources and hinder long-term productivity, hindering the growth of the per capita income of poor farmers.

Eliza Gkritsi

Photo: Flickr

Clean Coal Technology in Indonesia
Indonesia is one of many countries around the world wanting to do their part in reversing climate change and protecting the planet for years to come. Working with the World Coal Association (WCA), Indonesia hopes to implement clean coal technology in plants across the country. Clean coal technology in Indonesia works in a number of ways to burn coal more efficiently and with less adverse effects on the environment.

One method of making the coal burning process cleaner is known as coal washing. In this method, Indonesian facilities would remove unwanted mineral deposits by crushing the coal down and mixing it with a liquid that clears away the undesirables minerals.

Another tactic for cleaning coal involves the use of wet scrubbers to target sulfur dioxide, which causes acid rain, and remove it before burning. In order to avoid burning coal altogether, gasification could be implemented to separate carbon molecules. This process creates what is known as syngas, which is an amalgam of carbon monoxide and hydrogen used in gas turbines to convert heat energy into electricity.

While use of this technology may be more expensive than the less efficient alternative, Indonesia wants to make good on the Paris Agreement, enacted earlier in 2016. Indonesia committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 29% alone by 2030 or up to 41% with help from foreign aid.

As the fourth-largest coal producer in the world, it is essential that Indonesia take the necessary steps to ensure the country becomes a positive example for coal burning nations around the world. Clean coal technology in Indonesia has more to offer its citizens than merely reducing the output of greenhouse gases. Switching to these technologies will require skilled Indonesian workers, therefore creating jobs and stimulating economic growth.

The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity conducted a study that supported a growth of 150,000 jobs by building 124 new clean coal power plants. Strategies like these could be implemented to achieve similarly positive results in Indonesia’s coal industry.

Initiatives like these bring the world together in order to achieve a common goal. Indonesia is working to support this global mission for job growth, cleaner energy, and a better planet for future generations.

Aaron Walsh

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Indonesia
Indonesia is the world’s third most populous democracy, and its people are spread out among thousands of islands in the Indian ocean. The country’s unique geography and turbulent history have made poverty reduction a challenge. However, Indonesia has made strides in addressing poverty thanks to strong economic growth and concentrated poverty alleviation legislation.

6 Facts About Poverty in Indonesia

  1. Poverty in Indonesia is both urban and rural, which makes reduction efforts by the government and international groups a uniquely challenging problem. Furthermore, due to Indonesia’s geography, natural disasters are a much more costly threat than in other nations, and they disproportionally affect poor people.
  2. Poverty reduction in Indonesia has been very effective in the 21st century. Approximately 11 percent of the population lives in poverty, a more than 50 percent reduction since 1999. Between 2006 and 2013, 10 million people climbed out of poverty in Indonesia.
  3. Despite the clear downward trend in poverty numbers, according to Indonesia Investments, “the Indonesian government applies rather easy terms and conditions regarding the definition of the poverty line, resulting in a more positive picture than reality.” As a result, Indonesia has a high population of people who are “near poor,” or in danger of falling into extreme poverty in an economic downturn.
  4. In recent years, however, the economy of Indonesia has been performing very well. Indonesia has the largest economy in Southeast Asia and the 16th largest in the world. The Indonesian economy has seen steady annual growth rates of between four and six percent annually since 2004. Furthermore, the unemployment rate is very low, recorded at just 5.5 percent in 2015.
  5. There has been a recent uptick in public spending by the government to improve public services in the country. The Indonesian government now invests about $30 million every year in its five major poverty reduction programs. The government has also been increasing its loan allocations in order to help small businesses.
  6. The country has a positive growth outlook for coming years. The Indonesian government has shown its commitment to fiscal reforms to increase foreign investment, and economic growth is expected to increase in coming years.

Despite the challenges that Indonesia faces, the last 15 years of economic growth and poverty reduction are encouraging for the future.

John English

Photo: Pixabay

Poor water quality in Indonesia

Climate change, poor urban infrastructure and pollution resulting from rapid urban development and environmental destruction have led to poor water quality in Indonesia.

Although Indonesia enjoys 21 percent of the total freshwater available in the Asia-Pacific region, nearly one out of two Indonesians lack access to safe water, and more than 70 percent of the population rely on potentially contaminated sources.

Poor water quality in Indonesia is directly related to a life of poverty, as poor individuals are unable to afford clean drinking solutions.

To combat poverty and improve the lives of individuals, USAID has partnered with local governments and civil society organizations to weaken the agents of poor water quality in Indonesia by strengthening biodiversity and climate change resilience.

Climate Change

Climate change threatens to disrupt seasonal variations and thus water quality in Indonesia. The dry season may become more arid which would drive water demand, and the rainy season may condense higher precipitation levels into shorter periods, increasing the possibility of heavy flooding while decreasing the ability to capture and store water.

Increased flood conditions and rainfall facilitate the spread of disease in areas where the population lacks access to clean water and sanitation.

USAID works with the Indonesian government to help the most vulnerable areas of Indonesia become more resilient to climate change effects. The agency builds local government and civil society organizational capacity to understand the effects of climate change and to implement climate change solutions in agriculture, water and natural resources management.

More than 13,000 people have been trained in climate change adaptation strategies and disaster risk reduction. As a result, USAID has worked with more than 360 communities to develop action plans addressing the impacts of climate change, which in effect improves the poor water quality in Indonesia.

Environmental Destruction

Environmental destruction associated with unmanaged development and deforestation has left many parts of Indonesia extremely vulnerable to landslides, tsunamis and floods.

An environmental disaster furthers the cycle of poverty in Indonesia as individuals are left with even fewer resources than before. The country has lost around 72 percent of its forest cover over the last 50 years.

Large barren hillside areas and the underlying soils, both subject to heavy precipitation, greatly increase the likelihood and severity of floods. When flooding does occur, urban infrastructure is quickly overwhelmed which leads to sewage spillover and further contamination.

To combat environmental destruction and improve water quality in Indonesia, USAID works to conserve and strengthen biodiversity in Indonesia. The agency does so by building capacity in national and local government bodies and associated civil society actors, and by entering partnerships, to promote and strengthen sustainable land-use practices and management in four provinces.

Projects developed by USAID focus on conserving large swaths of lowland and peat forest with high concentrations of biodiversity.

Pollution

Indonesia has become a pollution hotspot due to its economic development and rapid urbanization. Waste from commercial and industrial processes is increasingly making its way into both groundwater and surface supplies affecting water quality in Indonesia. Moreover, Indonesia’s urban slums particularly lack wastewater treatment to combat the growing pollution.

The basic sanitation infrastructure necessary to prevent human excrement from contaminating water supplies is virtually nonexistent. Households simply dispose their domestic waste directly to a river body.

Since many Indonesians are poor and have no access to piped water, they use river water for drinking, bathing and washing. Around 53 percent of the population obtains water from sources contaminated by raw sewage, which greatly increases human susceptibility to water-related diseases.

To improve the poor water quality in Indonesia by combating the effects of pollution, USAID has facilitated access to clean water for more than 2 million people and basic sanitation to more than 200,000 people.

These actions have built one more step for individuals in Indonesia to walk out of poverty, as their low income does not inhibit them from enjoying clean drinking water.

Alexis Pierce

Photo: Pixabay

Indonesia_Family

In 2013, 28 million Indonesians lived below the poverty line. Impoverished families throughout the nation were often too poor to afford healthcare and education for their children, leading to illness and injury that trapped them in generational poverty.

In an effort to break this generational cycle, the World Bank, in combination with the Ministry of Social Affairs, has created the Family Hope Program.

Financial and Developmental Aid

The Indonesian Family Hope Program works through a series of cash transfers. The money is given to parents who agree to participate in health and nutrition training, take their children to clinics when they’re ill and keep their children in school.

The program also provides startup money and skills training to parents. These micro-investments give families the means to become entrepreneurs and run their own family businesses, ensuring economic growth and generational development.

Health

Mothers participating in the program are encouraged to give their children the best possible start to life — beginning in the womb. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that women have four antenatal check-ups throughout the course of their pregnancy, thus lowering the risk of complications, infections and other life-threatening incidents through screenings. Yet, few women receive all four visits.

The Family Hope Program has increased the number of antenatal checkups by more than 7 percent. This establishes a precedent of continued family health. As mothers are healthier during and after pregnancy, children are healthier and receive better healthcare as a result. The 7 percent increase in antenatal care resulted in a mirrored raise in child immunizations by 7 percent.

The nutritional aspect of the program has also positively impacted childhood development, decreasing the number of children suffering from stunting by 5 percent. As a result of children being healthier, they are able to focus better and attend school.

Education

Along with the cash grants, more than 11,000 facilitators trained in education and nutrition hold seminars teaching mothers how to manage finances, improve the health of their families and aid their children in their studies.

The program has resulted in increased enrollment and school participation.

Many children from poor families stop attending school after completing their primary education, though not due to a lack of desire to attend. The program has removed financial barriers keeping children from continuing their education for the more than 3 million families that the program has reached.

Children now are 8 percent more likely to go on to secondary education and 10 percent more likely to enroll in junior secondary school. According to the United Nations, more education equals higher earning potential and better health, which are essential to end the generational poverty cycle.

Claire Colby

Sources: NCBI, United Nations, World Bank, World Health Organization
Photo: PBase

Wonder Women Initiative Takes Off in Indonesia
For decades, the iconic comic book superheroine Wonder Woman has been a representation of justice, strength and all that is right in the universe. Today, the spirit of Wonder Woman is as present as it has ever been, but it has been breathed into the organization titled, appropriately, Wonder Women. In 2015, it is this plural variation of the legendary superhero’s name that resonates the most with global change.

The Wonder Women Initiative is a movement to revitalize poverty-stricken areas by teaching the women of these communities to sell new pieces of technology and equipment to their neighbors and members of their towns or villages. The effort has been especially successful in Indonesia over the last few years. Some of the items sold include solar lanterns, clean cookstoves and water filters.

An article by CNBC detailing the Wonder Women program recently said, “Since the program started in 2011, more than 300 women have become ‘micro-social-entrepreneurs,’ selling around 10,000 clean technology products to their communities.” The Wonder Women initiative has been extremely successful because of its grassroots approach to eradicating poverty. This project operates under the umbrella of the large non-government organization Kopernik.

Kopernik was founded on the belief that only a simple piece of technology can drastically turn around poverty situations all over the world. The NGO’s website provides certain statistics such as “780 million people live with dirty water, when a simple filter can provide safe, clean, convenient drinking water” and “1.3 billion people rely on dim, dirty, dangerous kerosene for lighting, when simple solar lanterns can provide clean, bright light at night.” Kopernik receives money directly from donors all over the world and in turn, uses these funds to produce cost-effective technology products that can be sent to third world countries and commercialized by an initiative like Wonder Women.

Wonder Women is impacting thousands of lives every year and revitalizing the way nonprofits work. By teaching women how to sell technology at cost-effective prices within their communities, Wonder Women is positively affecting the global economy. Kopernik has a quote on its site that reads, “Our namesake, Nicolaus Copernicus, changed the way people see the world. Like Copernicus, we want Kopernik to be a catalyst for change.” Much like its namesake, Wonder Women is promoting justice and all that is right with the world.

Diego Catala

Sources: CNBC, Kopernik
Photo: Dorkly

ceria

In the Indonesian district of Malaka, children are finally being provided with an opportunity to create a better future for themselves. Save the Children has partnered up with the H&M Conscious Foundation to improve educational conditions for children within this impoverished region of the world.

Malaka used to be part of the Belu district in East Nusa Tenggara province. It was so severely underdeveloped that the government decided to establish Malaka as its own district in 2012, hoping to finally spur development. Unfortunately, the district’s citizens are still fighting to break out of the poverty cycle.

Malaka contains 15 elementary schools filled with children seeking a quality education. Most children cannot afford to wear shoes to school. When they finally arrive on foot to their classrooms, they typically face deteriorating walls, lack of access to water and collapsing roofs.

Poor personal hygiene and health combined with the schools’ poor physical conditions often results in prolonged student sickness. To make matters worse, children are oftentimes juggling a language barrier as well.

Hailing from places like East Timor and belonging to ethnic groups that rely on different languages, many of the students do not speak Indonesian. The people of Malaka use five local languages representing the region’s indigenous tribes. Regardless of lack of comprehension, however, the material is taught primarily in Indonesian.

Primary school teachers often employ physical punishment as they deem necessary, causing many students to live in fear. In lower grades especially, it is not uncommon for students to fail their studies or have to repeat a grade due to some combination of the aforementioned factors.

In August 2014, Save the Children pledged to embark on a three-year project focused on improving education for around 2,850 children in the area. Since then, the charity has been working side by side with the H&M’s Conscious Foundation to build 15 new preschools and renovate the 15 existing Malakan schools.

Like Save the Children, the H&M Conscious Foundation seeks to improve children’s education. In addition, the independent organization works to empower women and provide access to clean water in developing countries.

The Conscious Foundation teamed up with STC to launch the Children in Early Grades Reach Incredible Achievements (CERIA) Project three years ago. CERIA also doubles as the Indonesian word for “cheerful.”

The CERIA project is targeting early education in order to achieve long-term effects. It aims to increase enrollment and attendance at quality preschools, improve teaching methods and school readiness for young students and reduce first-grade repetition rates.

The program is targeted at a total of 30 poor rural communities scattered throughout Malaka. Within each early childhood education center, there will be two classrooms able to accommodate 20 to 30 students. Some students are already benefiting from the progress made on renovations last year.

CERIA also offers free teacher training programs to improve the quality of education. Since the majority of teachers in Malaka are volunteers lacking a background in education, this has been an especially effective tool for improvement.

By its conclusion in 2017, the CERIA project is expected to benefit Malaka’s 2,400 elementary school teachers, 450 preschoolers and 180 primary and preschool teachers. There is no telling what accomplishments these properly educated children and teachers will be able to achieve in the long run.

Sarah Bernard

Sources: Jakarta Globe, H&M
Photo: Compassion International

Trading Trash for Health Care in Indonesia
Three out of five Indonesians do not have access to health insurance and do not make enough money to visit the doctor. Instead, Indonesians delay their health and wellbeing until their symptoms turn into major problems.

In Jan. 2014, Indonesia started a new health insurance program managed by the Social Security Organizing Body (BPJS). By 2019, it will be the world’s largest health scheme, and according to the government, all 247 million residents will be covered. The health program impacts the middle class the most — that is, the people who are not poor enough to receive government assistance and not rich enough to buy private insurance.

After one year, the BPJS enrolled 133.4 million people in their new health program, exceeding their goal by 11.8 million members. Lack of infrastructure makes it harder for people in rural areas to make the drive to an urban hospital.

Dr. Gamal Albinsaid, the founder of Garbage Clinical Insurance, helps over 3,000 people afford health coverage by trading trash for health care. In Indonesia, many recyclables are wasted and only 50 percent of all of the country’s trash is collected. The abundance of trash left on the streets creates health problems for their citizens. A total of 3.22 million tons of plastic waste were generated along the coast of Indonesia in 2010. This was 10 percent of the world’s total that year.

All of the organic trash Albinsaid receives is turned into fertilizer and compost, while he receives cash for recyclable items. Four and a half pounds of plastic is enough to allow one patient two monthly visits to Albinsaid’s clinic.

“We’re changing people’s perceptions and habits towards garbage,” Dr. Albinsaid explains. “I believe if the positives of this problem are made known, it will excite a lot more people into adopting it.”

Indonesia ranks forty-eighth in the world for health and wellness and has an average life expectancy of 70 years. Health care in Indonesia is far from universal, but the country is doing better than most of its other Southeast Asian neighbors to promote health.

Only 0.9 percent of Indonesia’s GDP is spent on infrastructure for health care. Most of the gaps in the healthcare system are being taken care of by NGOs that treat Indonesians in the poorest and most rural areas of the country. An increase in health care spending is needed for Indonesia to successfully create a universal coverage program.

While many Indonesians may be critical of the universal health care plan, labeling it as “too ambitious,” the program is only 19 months old but is already showing signs for potentially being the largest universal health care program in the world. Until then, Garbage Clinical Insurance and NGOs are providing health services to many of Indonesia’s rural citizens.

Donald Gering

Sources: Al Jazeera, Good News Network, The Guardian, Huffington Post, Social Progress Imperative, World Bank
Photo: Inquirer

child_rights
A new report released by UNICEF in late June has highlighted the significant achievements of nations across the globe in safeguarding child rights.

The Progress for Children Report, which examined international efforts to meet UN Millennium Goals related to the advancement of children, specifically noted certain accomplishments Indonesia has recorded in regards to strengthening child protection and security.

Since the advent of the MGD’s in 2000, the Pacific Island nation of Indonesia has successfully reduced the mortality rate for children under 5 from 84 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990, to 29 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2015. These figures also represent significant regional advancements, as the average number of deaths per 1,000 live births decreased dramatically from 58 in 1990 to only 17 in 2015.

Indonesian officials have cited such health advancements as products of efforts to reduce national fertility rates, which have decreased 1.3 percent in the past 25 years, and improvements in maternal healthcare programming. As opposed to 1992, where only 36 percent of live births recorded attendance of skilled medical professionals, officials reported a dramatic increase to 83 percent skilled attendance in 2012.

Such efforts by the government to promote stronger home construction, offer wider access to clean water and sanitation, and generate better education and health care systems have assisted in the growth of the nations economy and subsequent increases in social expenditures. The government is currently planning to introduce a universal health care program by 2019, an advancement that would solidify national efforts to improve the quality of life available for Indonesian children.

Government officials also boasted a 95 percent net primary school attendance record last year, which brought the nation equal to the regional average of primary education attendance for East Asia and the Pacific.

While Indonesia has demonstrated strong efficacy in advancing the protection of children’s rights, many officials have warned that the current climate of child poverty within the country must be further addressed.

According to the World Bank, of a national population comprised of over 250 million people, almost 30 million of these people still live below the poverty line. Despite recent efforts to improve sanitation facilities, access to such public works systems remains at 68 percent of the population—a large shortcoming of the 86 percent target outlined within the Millennium Development Goals. Indonesia also recorded a remarkably high maternal mortality rate last year, with 190 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Officials hope continued efforts to provide stronger health care and sanitation systems across the country will assist in reducing such statistics.

Tata Sudrajat, the Families First Director for Save the Children, recently stated in an interview, “Although Indonesia is already a middle income country according to World Bank standards, nearly 44 million Indonesian children still live on under $2 per day. That’s about 50 percent of Indonesia’s child population.”

Sudrajat continued to explain that a major obstacle for the security of children’s rights within Indonesia remains the prevalence of sexual violence against children between the ages of 13 and 18. Citing data from a recent government study, she explained that on average one in 12 males and one in 19 females within this age range are annually affected by sexual violence. Claiming that such crimes often occur close to victim’s homes, Sudrajat stated, “Research on sexual violence against children often finds that the perpetrator is someone who is personally close to the child, which makes children very vulnerable to these sorts of crimes.”

Sudrajat also explained in her interview that campaigns for public awareness regarding child abuse and the socio-cultural roots of these crimes are effective methods for promoting stronger understanding of such issues in order to prevent future incidents. With UNICEF estimating in 2013 that 34.2 percent of the national population, or about 85 million people, are under the age of 18, the continual responsibility to promote and protect the basic rights of Indonesian children is enormous.

James Thornton

Sources: The Jakarta Globe, Economist, World Bank
Photo: University of Victoria

stranded_refugees
In late May 2015, thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshi refugees were stranded on the open ocean. The governments of nearby countries didn’t want them. Amidst this humanitarian crisis and fatal government hesitation, local Acehnese Indonesian fishermen saved thousands of refugees.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas and Bangladeshi’s have fled their native homeland; the Rohingyas face political persecution that mirrors Apartheid South Africa, and Bangladeshis face seemingly inescapable poverty. Over 120,000 Rohingyas have left in the past three years, and just this year, 25,000 Rohingyas have fled.

In Buddhist-majority Myanmar, the Rohingyas are persecuted, and have been since the 1970s. They are not recognized as citizens and are “subjected to forced labour, have no land rights, and are heavily restricted,” says BBC. This March, the government took away the Rohingya’s right to vote.

The Rohingyas are an Islamic ethnic group. They are said to be descended from Muslim traders who settled in the region over 1,000 years ago, but the Myanmar government persists the Rohingyas are actually Bengali migrants— subjecting them to severe inequality.

It is due to this severe oppression that thousands of Rohingyas have fled Myanmar via boat. Rohingyas have paid smugglers in the past few years to transport them to safer countries, like Indonesia or Malaysia.

This year, Indonesia, Malaysia and other countries that Rohingyas flee to cracked down on the influx of refugees, refusing to admit them.

For this reason, many refugees were left stranded by smugglers in the middle of the ocean. Other smugglers turned out to be traffickers, who held the migrants hostage in the ocean, attempting to pressure impoverished family members into paying for their stranded loved ones.

None of the countries in the region were willing to help them, and governments told local fishermen not to help stranded refugees.

“The focus should be on saving lives, not further endangering them,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesman Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

Thailand and Indonesia turned away boats from their shores. Malaysia ordered its navy to keep the boats away. The United Nations has issued a statement that it is “appalled” by the foreign policy of these nations.

Chris Lewa, an advocate for the Rohingya activist group, described the attitude of neighboring countries as “extremely unwelcoming. Unlike European countries – who at least make an effort to stop North African migrants from drowning in the Mediterranean – Myanmar’s neighbours are reluctant to provide any assistance.”

Human Rights Watch accused Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia of playing “human ping pong” with boats by refusing to let people in and by pushing boats back out to international waters.

Thousands of boat people were stranded at sea with little food and water and no place to land. “For more than two months we were in the boat, we were only given little food and we were beaten when we asked for more,” said Mohamad Ali, a Bangladeshi migrant to BBC.

Mohammad Idiris, a 25-year-old from Myanmar was held on a crowded ship for 6 months, said he was “beaten regularly by human traffickers who demanded a ransom from his parents that they couldn’t pay,” reported the IRIN. “I didn’t know it was going to be like this. If I had known, I would have stayed in Myanmar. We feel happy here, because the Acehnese people are treating us as brothers, but we are still worried about our families in Myanmar.”

Despite government wishes, Indonesians from the Aceh region rescued around 2,000 stranded boat people. “We helped them because they needed help. What is more human than that?” said Mansur, a Acehnese fisherman, in an interview with The Guardian.

The people of Aceh themselves have suffered intense violence and devastation in the past; they were caught in violence between the Indonesian government and separatist rebels, as well as the tsunami of 2004 in the early 2000s. For this reason, the Aceh people were very welcoming.

The fishermen worked together, pulling refugees from boat to boat, taking multiple trips and providing food and water on shore. Suryadi, an Aceh fisherman, told The Guardian, “We helped out of solidarity. If we find someone in the ocean we have to help them no matter who they are. The police did not like us helping but we could not avoid it. Our sense of humanity was higher. So we just helped with the limited resources that we had at the time.”

Aceh even put on a concert to raise money for the refugees. Rafly, a popular local singer, performed “Pemulia Jamee,” a traditional Acehnese ceremony, to honor guests. Rafly is also a senator, and plans to advocate for the refugees to stay in Aceh in the future.

“I really wish they will stay permanently in Aceh. I have lobbied the governor of Aceh on this matter and will raise it with the head of the senate,” he tells IRIN.

The future for the Bangladeshi and Rohingya refugees is uncertain. Bangladeshis may be returned to Bangladesh once they are identified, though they return to an unwelcome government. Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina called the stranded boat people “mentally sick” for leaving, and claimed they are “tainting the image of the country.”

Myanmar recently created a program to give citizenship back to the Rohyingas; however, it forces the Rohingyas to list their ethnicity as Bengali, so it is heavily opposed. The Rohingyas are not welcome in Myanmar. Today around 140,000 Rohingyas in Myanmar live in camps; they cannot return to their villages, which were burned by Rakhine Buddhists in 2012 violence that killed over 200 people.

After a large amount of chaos, conflict and devastating waiting, Malaysia and Indonesia finally agreed to let refugees shelter on their shores, as long as they are relocated within a year. However, this was only after local Indonesian fishermen went directly against the wishes of their government to help save extremely vulnerable refugees.

Margaret Mary Anderson

Sources: BBC, IRIN News , The Guardian
Photo: IRIN News