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At a glance: Indonesia

Indonesia fights avian influenza with information and action

© UNICEF Indonesia/2006/Purnomo
Zika, 3, eats a snack near the chickens sold at the Patok market in Semarang, Central Java, Indonesia. UNICEF and its partners are raising awareness on avian influenza so that communities can protect themselves from the deadly virus.

CENTRAL JAVA, Indonesia, 12 July 2006 – UNICEF and its partners have launched a grassroots campaign to help the Government of Indonesia battle the growing threat of avian influenza.

The goal of the project is to ensure that every village has a plan to cope with avian influenza, otherwise known as bird flu, and to teach people simple steps to keep the deadly virus at bay.

To date, Indonesia’s Ministry of Health has confirmed 52 cases of human infection from the avian influenza virus and 40 deaths. 

A lack of information has hampered efforts to control the virus in the vast and populous archipelago. Rumours, misinformation and sensational news reports have also hampered these efforts.

© UNICEF Indonesia/2006/Purnomo
The Vice Governor of Central Java, Ali Mufiz (wearing UNICEF cap), talks to Citro, a poultry owner in the village of Campurejo.

A sense of urgency

Pak Rahmat is a day labourer in Central Java who raises several dozen chickens in his backyard. He earns an average of about a dollar a day from his small business – just enough to keep his family above the poverty line. But like many here, Mr. Rahmat is ill-informed about avian influenza.

“I saw something on TV about bird flu but I really don’t know,” he says. “Here when a chicken is sick, we give it natural herbs. But we don’t know if it was suffering from bird flu or not.”

Protests by small-scale poultry breeders who oppose the culling of chickens have occurred in places such as North Sumatra where, in one widely reported case, seven members of one family died from the virus earlier this year. The protests highlight the need for grassroots communication and a coordinated plan to deal with outbreaks as they happen.

There is also a sense of urgency as the start of a new influenza season in September approaches.

© UNICEF Indonesia/2006/Purnomo
A woman catches chicken to sell at Patok market in Semarang, Central Java.

Coordinated UN response

With funding from the Government of Japan, UNICEF last week held the first in a planned series of workshops designed to support Indonesia in its effort to battle bird flu through information and action. The two-day meeting was held in Salatiga; other workshops are planned in Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi.

UNICEF’s work on this issue is part of the coordinated United Nations response to avian influenza that includes close collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization.

“UNICEF is working with non-governmental organizations, religious groups and the government to promote ways to win the war on avian influenza and to give families the information they need to protect themselves,” explains Semarang Field Office Chief Made Sutama.

The challenge is enormous for Indonesia, where backyard poultry farming is a way of life for many families.

Sabine Dolan contributed to this report from New York. 





12 July 2006:
UNICEF correspondent Sabine Dolan reports on efforts by UNICEF and its partners to help the Government of Indonesia battle the growing threat of avian influenza.
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