Poor sanitation in Indonesia hits kids hard

Jan 27, 2011 – Changing a mindset is easier said than done.

In Indonesia, public awareness of the importance of hygiene remains low. About 30 percent of the total population of about 240 million, for example, still practice open defecation, according to government figures.

Experts point out that insufficient sanitation management and poor awareness of hygiene practices have led to preventable diseases, and children are among those affected most.

About 18.6 percent of children in Indonesia suffer from malnutrition and diseases such as respiratory infections and diarrhea, according to MercyCorps, a nongovernmental organization working to reduce urban poverty.

The NGO’s two-year project in Jakarta slums is designed to address sanitation problems from both physical and psychological perspectives. While increasing access to sanitation infrastructure, the project also seeks to change people’s behavior through such methods as peer pressure.

However, NGO’s initiatives have been hindered by rapid urbanization in Jakarta.

A government survey has found that slum areas in Jakarta have increased 1.37 percent annually since 2004 despite efforts by multiple parties to tackle chronic urban problems rooted in poverty. A rapid inflow of people seeking jobs and better lives in urban areas has boosted land prices and the cost of living, making it more difficult for newcomers to find decent housing.

Java, the island on which Jakarta is situated, accounts for only 7 percent of the archipelago’s landmass but has nearly 60 percent of the country’s total population.

“Rapid growth in urbanization leads to insufficient space to provide people with access to water and sanitation facilities,” said Erlyn Sulistyaningsih, a MercyCorps program manager in Indonesia. “Diversity of migrants, such as education levels, race and culture, also influences raising awareness of health and sanitation behavior.”


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