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

Healthcare Improvements Indonesia
Healthcare improvements in Indonesia have been increasingly prevalent and apparent due to the government’s focus on improving the sector. Indonesia has set a goal of establishing universal healthcare by 2019, a move commended by the United Nations as part of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

Addressing Non-Communicable Diseases

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which are mostly related to unhealthy lifestyle choices are a problem in Indonesia, accounted for 71 percent of all deaths in the country om 2014.

In addition to such sobering statistics, the poor continue to suffer disproportionately from Indonesia’s major health problems and are thus less likely to be immunized. In fact, children from the most impoverished families are nearly four times more likely to die before their fifth birthday than children from the richest families.

Local governments have become the focal point for healthcare provision. To demonstrate such prioritization, this group’s share in total public health spending increased from 10 percent (prior to decentralization) to 50 percent in 2001. This shift could make public spending more responsive, relative to local conditions and variations in disease patterns.

Healthcare Improvements in Indonesia

Telemedicine and software development for healthcare has begun in Indonesia on a small-scale. Close collaboration between the government and private sector is needed to bring this technology to its full potential. However, one of the major challenges in accomplishing bringing telemedicine to Indonesia is the lack of solid regulations. Telemedicine weds medical devices with IT — a combination often not present in government regulations.

Infant mortality has dropped from 118 deaths per thousand births in 1970 to 35 in 2003, and life expectancy increased from 48 years to 66 years over the same period. Such positive developments can be attributed to the expansion of a public health provision in the 1970s and 1980s and increased development in programs for family planning.

Long-Terms Strategies to Create Healthcare Improvements in Indonesia

The government’s Ministry of Health strategy is built on four pillars:

  • Community empowerment
  • Health financing
  • Access to health services
  • Surveillance

Some of the key issues in the decentralized setting for the health sector in Indonesia include: an increase in allocation for health and the improvement of allocative efficiency, the prioritizations within reproductive health and the attempt to ensure the availability of reliable information to support decision-making processes.

Project Development Objective in Indonesia

The World Bank has a specific Project Development Objective in Indonesia known as the Health Professional Education Quality (HPEQ). The aim of the objective is to improve higher education in the health sector through a number of developments. These improvements include:

  • Strengthening policies and procedures for school accreditation
  • Developing a national competency-based examination at the school level for graduates
  • Improving school quality to meet accreditation standards
  • Leading schools to accelerate progress among less strong schools

Healthcare improvements in Indonesia occur because of increased support from the Indonesian government, as well as the help from local and national organizations. With such internal and external support and increased levels of impact, Indonesia continues to make steady improvement in its healthcare system and positively change the lives of its constituents. Other nations would do well to follow in Indonesia’s healthcare-focused footsteps.

Casey Geier
Photo: Flickr

Fishermen Poverty in the South China Sea
The South China Sea represents more than just a geopolitical struggle; it is a hotspot for fishing. Beijing claims that its historic rights give it ownership inside the so-called Nine-Dash Line, covering around 80 percent of the South China Sea. These claims contradict maritime laws, among them The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and have received backlash from several Southeast Asian countries.

For example, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam all hold overlapping claims over the Spratlys Islands, a group of islands, archipelagos and reefs. Aggression from all sides and a lack of cooperation on fishing regulations have endangered the livelihoods of fishermen, who rely on the South China Sea for sustenance. Here are seven facts about fishermen poverty in the South China Sea:

7 Facts about Fishermen Poverty in the South China Sea

  1. The South China Sea fisheries constitute the economic lifeblood of claimant states. They are the home of upwards of 3,365 species of marine fish, and 55 percent of marine fishing vessels operate in the South China Sea. Moreover, approximately 12 percent of global fishing catches occur there. In addition to being a source of nutrition, the fisheries provide employment to at least 3.7 million people.

  2. Overfishing has depleted the fishing reserves of the South China Sea. A Stimson report released in December 2012 found that shallow reefs and shoals have been exploited to their limit. Relative to other regions of Earth, portions of the South China Sea are among the most highly affected marine ecosystems.

  3. Coastal development has further aggravated marine species. Mangroves, for example, occupy a mere 70 percent of their original land area in the South China Sea, and seagrass beds have shrunk to 50 percent of pre-industrial levels. Industrial pollutants, tourism and sediment runoff have endangered marine species, which use coastal habitats for spawning purposes. When these coastal habitats become depleted, fishermen venture beyond national limits, leading to confrontations at sea.

  4. Overexploitation of stocks has forced fishermen to turn to dangerous fishing techniques. In order to make up for economic losses, fishermen have used explosives and cyanide to boost yields. Some have resorted to blast fishing, in which dynamite is used to kills schools of fish. This allows for easy collection, but it seriously harms the coral reefs and seabed in the process. In Indonesia alone, fishing explosives have cost up to $3.8 billion between 1980 and 2000.

  5. Fishermen poverty is a common type of poverty in countries surrounding the South China Sea. 80 percent of Indonesian fishing households earn incomes below the country’s poverty line. In the Tay Ninh province of Vietnam, people working in the fisheries sector made up 88 percent of very low-income households in 1999. Moreover, poverty is more prevalent in Filipino fishing households than in the average Filipino household.

  6. Legal uncertainty about the status of artificial islands and false claims in the South China Sea have exacerbated tensions between fishermen from different Southeast Asian nations. Maritime border disputes have prevented countries from establishing a framework for cooperation. With no regulation of fishing activities, illegal and unreported fishing has gone rampant in the South China Sea.

  7. Border disputes have put the lives of Southeast Asian fishermen in danger. CNN reported that, in 2015, Chinese vessels attacked 200 Ly Son (Vietnamese) fishermen and 17 fishing boats. Starting in 2005 and lasting seven years, Chinese government ships kidnapped Vietnamese fishers for ransom near The Paracel Islands. Romel Cejuela, a Filipino fisherman, explained that the Chinese Coast Guard personnel “board our boats, look at where we store the fish and take the best ones.” China is not the sole perpetrator of these acts of violence and robbery. In 2017, Reuters article Indonesia’s navy shot four Vietnamese fishermen on a fishing boat in the South China Sea.

On June 27, 2018, representatives from the member states of The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China met in Changsha to negotiate a “code of conduct” for vessels traveling through the South China Sea. For the first time, China and ASEAN reached a consensus on a set of maritime rules and planned to hold joint maritime exercises in the future. While some critics dismiss the meeting as a Chinese ploy, agreements like this one are necessary for fishermen whose lives depend on stability in the South China Sea.

To alleviate fishermen poverty and create an environment more conducive to cooperation and sustainable fishing, it is essential that Southeast Asian nations delineate territorial claims and abide by a rules-based international order. With the negotiations currently underway, this may occur sooner than originally anticipated.

– Mark Blekherman
Photo: Flickr

Media Misrepresents IndonesiaWestern media often sensationalizes stereotypes of Asian countries including one of the most diverse and beautiful scenic spots in the world, Indonesia. There is a tendency to depict it as a poor, uneducated country with Islamic extremists and rising cases of drug trafficking: that’s how the media misrepresents Indonesia. What the media does not highlight is the economic growth the country has made and consistent efforts by the government to ensure that the rest of the world sees the country differently from what the media depicts it to be.

Media Misrepresents Indonesia and its People

The media misrepresents Indonesia by showing poor children on the streets with no shelter and no food. Although 10.2 percent of Indonesia’s population lives in poverty, it is a generalization to call it a poor nation. It is worth noting that Indonesia has the highest middle class in Southeast Asia and “the average disposable income is expected to increase 3-5 percent annually.” The Indonesian government has made it a goal to focus on the issue so that the country can achieve less than 10 percent poverty rate.

Furthermore, the media highlights the presence of only uneducated people who do not have access to quality education. The country’s government has proved its commitment to educating its people, specifically in the last few years, spending significantly on education. The number of high school students has doubled in the last five years. In fact, all Indonesian kids are required to have at least nine years of compulsory education, and therefore more students are going to university.

Highlighting Terrorism in Indonesia

The media often portrays Indonesia as a conservative, traditional Islamic country. While we only see stories of ISIS members and the actions of extremists, 87 percent of Indonesia’s population is Muslim and the majority of them wants the rest of the world to know that the actions of a small percentage of extremists do not represent all Indonesian Muslims. In fact, most people are not aware that, by law, Indonesia is a secular state. In other words, Indonesia is not even an Islamic country: it just holds the largest amount of Muslims in the world.

Stereotyping Indonesia

Western media also neglects the progress Indonesia’s people are making to combat stereotypes. For example, in 2014, a group of Muslim girls formed a heavy metal band called Voice of Baceprot to show the world that they can wear the hijab (Islamic headscarf) while expressing their individuality. Firdda Kurnia, a member of the band adds, “I think gender equality should be supported because I feel I am still exploring my creativity, while at the same time, not diminishing my obligations as a Muslim woman.”

There is a clear disconnect between Indonesia and the western media. When the media covers the country, there is an obsession with feeding stereotypes. News reports fail to mention the efforts of the government in raising the standard of living and promoting their culture or that it is a country whose national motto is “Unity in Diversity.”

– Emma Martin
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Jakarta
While Jakarta has one of the lowest poverty rates in Indonesia, the nation as a whole has had fairly stagnant poverty levels for a few years now. The nation has seen much economic growth lately; however, this growth has not aided all citizens equally. These 10 facts about poverty in Jakarta illustrate the differences and similarities between the nation and its capital city.

Facts About Poverty in Jakarta

  1. Jakarta had a population of almost 11 million people in 2016.
  2. The poverty rate in Indonesia fell from 24 percent to 11.4 percent between 1999 and 2013, paralleling the poverty rate in the city of Jakarta. This is a reduction of more than 50 percent, demonstrating the Indonesian government’s ability to combat poverty effectively.
  3. However, in 2017 the poverty rate in Indonesia was 10.64 percent. In 2016, the poverty rate was 10.7 percent of the population. There has been very little change in poverty levels in Jakarta and Indonesia as a whole in the past few years, indicating the need for new policies and practices.
  4. The Gini ratio is an income inequality measurement tool, where zero represents total inequality and one represents total equality. In March 2017, the Gini ratio in Indonesia was 0.393, and the ratio has been unchanged since the previous September. Such inequality is even more prevalent in large urban areas like Jakarta.
  5. The Indonesia Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS) conducts poverty surveys twice a year, indicating an interest in the issue. They conduct research on the national and local levels. Additionally, these statistics are publicly available, showing good levels of transparency.
  6. Jakarta has been facing a widening income disparity, and the Jakarta BPS attributes it primarily to inflation. Inflation in the nation has also prevented development in labor-heavy industries, worsening poverty levels.
  7. Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, the governor of Jakarta, hopes to reduce the poverty rate in Jakarta to 1 percent between 2016 and the end of 2021. He plans to do this through a profit-sharing program, in which Jakarta’s poor will be able to start businesses and retain 80 percent of the revenue. The other 20 percent would go to the government.
  8. Indonesian President Joko Widodo indicated that, through a number of poverty alleviation programs, he believes the poverty rate will drop to the single digits. At a national meeting of regional legislative assemblies, he expressed that this is a major target for the government. These programs will be implemented in many cities, including Jakarta.
  9. One such program is the Family Hope Program, which is a social aid program that currently supports 10 million families. With this plan and others like it, the president hopes to significantly reduce poverty in the nation.
  10. President Widodo also pointed to “Kartu Indonesia Sehat,” which are cards that give people access to free healthcare at special service centers. Currently, 93 million people in Jakarta, and other towns and cities, are able to use the cards at a variety of centers.

These are the top 10 facts about poverty in Jakarta. Ultimately, there is still a lot of room for improvement in Jakarta and Indonesia as a whole. Poverty levels have been stagnant and action needs to be taken to move more people and families above the poverty line. However, the government seems to be putting in place far-reaching programs and setting goals for poverty reduction in the nation, which are very important steps. If these efforts continue and improve, Indonesia may well be on its way to eradicating poverty.

– Liyanga de Silva
Photo: Flickr

As neighboring countries, Australia and Indonesia have forged a close working relationship, especially in recent years. In fact, Australia has become a vital source of humanitarian aid to Indonesia. The main goal of Australia’s aid to Indonesia is to provide “policy and technical advice that will improve the quality of Indonesia’s investments in infrastructure, economic governance, human development and social policy, including areas in law and justice.

In 1989, the Australia-Indonesia Institute (AII) was established. Australia works with Indonesia to help improve its economy and sustainability as well as increase the stability and security of the Southeast Asian region. As part of Australia’s Aid Investment Plan, which was initiated in 2015, Australia has been able to provide 673.4 million dollars in official development assistance (ODA) to Indonesia in the past two years. It is estimated that a total of 356.9 million dollars ODA will be provided to Indonesia in the coming 2017 to 2018 years.

In 2017 alone, Australia has aided the improvement of Indonesia’s economy by targeting household electricity issues, expanding financial services for residents not covered by major banks, and improving Indonesia’s governmental budgeting and spending. They have also assisted in increasing incomes for 44,000 small farming households and providing better migrant worker services. Human development is a large factor in the Aid Investment Plan. Through education in several fields, Indonesian residents can learn how to solve any problem they may face, whether it be economic or disease-related.

Overall, the plan hones in on economic growth. With education given to both the government and residents, it is projected that Indonesia’s poverty numbers will substantially decrease. Currently, 25 million Indonesians live below the poverty line, 13.8 percent of which are people living in rural areas where farming is their major source of income. One way poverty is being addressed is through the education of farmers in operating more sustainable farms.

Caritas Australia, a non-profit organization, works in Indonesia with aims to end poverty, promote justice, and uphold dignity. So far, Caritas has been able to assist Indonesian residents with disaster preparedness, environmental protection, sustainable development, and health and community empowerment. Their work in Indonesia has been incredibly helpful to the country’s success in recovering from natural disasters, overpopulation and its lagging economy.

Caritas has six working programs to bring humanitarian aid to Indonesia, each one with a specific goal at hand. One program Caritas has been implementing is teaching farming communities how to grow crops that are more sustainable. Food security is a major issue in Indonesia, especially as natural disasters such as tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes, or extreme wet or dry seasons continuously threaten plant growth.

Established in 2010 and in partnership with Yayasan Mitra Tani Mandiri (YMTM), the farming program focuses its attention on rural communities where natural disasters have the most destructive effect. The program includes educating farmers on the importance of soil fertility in terms of reducing erosion after the harvesting of crops. This way, farmers are able to reuse the same land that was previously harvested instead of moving on to new patches of land.

Caritas farming humanitarian aid to Indonesia has allowed residents to learn how to farm effectively in order to receive a more reliable and stable food supply and income. In addition, Caritas has provided health training, and connections among Indonesian communities to share what they have learned and have guided communities to the development of strategic plans for their future farming.

A farmer from West Timor spoke with Caritas after participating in their farming program, in which he said, “before the program, I was very anxious. But now I do not worry. There is always cassava, banana, and taro in the garden. We will not be hungry.”

The work of both the Australia-Indonesia Institute and Caritas Australia humanitarian aid to Indonesia has proven to be very beneficial for its communities. There is a more solid foundation for farmers to maintain their crops as well as solutions for how to improve the country’s economy. Each program put in place is a step closer to Indonesia’s liberation from poverty.

– Brianna Summ

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