At a glance: Indonesia

Over 1,000 people take part in a simulation of a bird flu outbreak in Bali

UNICEF Image: Indonesia, Bird Flu simulation
© UNICEF/2008/ Purnomo
Children read a newspaper while wearing masks during a massive simulated bird flu pandemic in Bali, Indonesia.

By Arie Rukmantara

BALI, Indonesia, 9 May 2008 – A three-day drill to test Indonesia’s capacity to cope with a possible avian influenza outbreak was held on the island of Bali last month.

Some 1,000 people in Jembrana District took part in the simulation, which tested all aspects of community response in case of a pandemic. Several families were chosen to portray suspected bird flu victims.

After the deadly virus ‘struck’ a resident of Dangin Tukadaya village, police and military personnel carried out a series of containment measures, including closing schools and shops and cordoning off the village to try to stop the virus from spreading outside the epicentre.

“Even though it was a simulation, it was pretty scary,” said Inyoman Narma, one the residents who acted as if he had contracted bird flu. “Everything happened so fast. After the security personnel came, the streets were empty. I really hope this never happens.”

UNICEF Image: Indonesia, Bird Flu simulation
© UNICEF/2008/ Purnomo
A resident of Dangin Tukadaya village lies on a stretcher as she plays the role of a suspected bird flu victim in order to assess emergency preparedness.

Developing a warning system

Indonesia accounts for 108 of the 241 total human fatalities of avian influenza reported so far worldwide. The country’s bird flu control programme faces big challenges, such as how to regulate the backyard farming that is widely practiced in the sprawling archipelago.

The Indonesian Health Ministry's Director General for Communicable Diseases and Environmental Health, Dr. I Nyoman Kandun, who oversaw the drill, said the simulation was held to help develop a proper warning system to respond to a possible flu outbreak.

"We want to be prepared for influenza pandemic should it occur here in Indonesia. That’s why we are testing many sectors, including hospitals, security, transportation and communication," said Dr. Kandun.

UNICEF Image: Indonesia, Bird Flu simulation
© UNICEF/2008/ Purnomo
During the simulation, people were told to stay home and avoid contact with their neighbours while authorities distributed antiviral drugs and searched for 'victims'.

Working together

UNICEF Indonesia, with support from the Canadian International Development Agency, has been working closely with the communication section of the Indonesian Health Ministry and the Indonesian Committee for Avian Influenza and Pandemic Preparedness (KOMNAS FBPI).

Together, they aim to raise awareness and formulate emergency communication protocols.

 “UNICEF has been supporting a major campaign to raise awareness of avian influenza. It is now expanding its programme into pandemic preparedness,” said UNICEF Indonesia Representative Dr. Gianfranco Rotigliano. “It is vital that Indonesia is prepared for a possible flu pandemic. Solid preparation will undoubtedly save many lives.”

KOMNAS FBPI Chief Executive Bayu Krisnamurthi said the exercise was an excellent learning tool, but added that much more needs to be done.

"We must remain vigilant,” said Mr. Krisnamurthi. “Each and every country owes it to the rest of the world to be prepared and protect one another from this or any other deadly virus.”


 

 

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