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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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