UNICEF: Working behind the scenes in Indonesia’s COVID-19 response
Putting together a team to support the government's response
What are the coronavirus symptoms? What do I do if I am sick? Are my children safe? These are questions that have echoed around the world since the coronavirus (COVID-19) began spreading from country to country.
A month after China announced the first cases, UNICEF Indonesia began putting together a team to support the government's response to the deadly virus.
The challenge is immense: Indonesia is the world's fourth most populous country.
Shortly after a national emergency was declared, the National Agency for Disaster Management (BNPB) led the response, and UNICEF supported the agency by developing the country's official www.COVID19.go.id website in just four days.
Updated daily, the website includes the latest information on COVID-19 for the general public, practitioners and policy makers; it provides the latest news from national authorities, guidelines, educational materials, publications, and stories of how communities are supporting one another. One popular section is 'Hoaks Busters,' which has uncovered dozens of fake news content on the internet – like a myth that tropical countries would not be affected.
In the first month alone, the website reached 14 million people with vital information.
Round the clock
Embedded in the National Agency for Disaster Management, the UNICEF communication team works daily with the agency's staff and partners. The team focuses on supporting media conferences, a daily talk show, key messages, public surveys, web and social media updates, regional training, and community engagement efforts.
"By coordinating directly with the agency, we make sure that public messages are clear and consistent. During these difficult times, it is crucial the public has the right information," says Rizky Syafitri, UNICEF Communication Specialist.
Rizky says since the situation is continually evolving, working within the agency allows the UNICEF team to adapt its support to the government's response and provide real-time information and data.
One example is a recent UNICEF U-Report survey of 7,400 young people. It showed a solid understanding of handwashing but significant gaps with physical distancing and other essential messages.
The survey results were shared with BNPB, included in their daily briefing, and received widespread coverage. The results are helping to guide the creation of public messaging through video or radio PSAs.
Children at the Forefront
Behind the scenes, UNICEF is helping to ensure that issues related to children and adolescents are at the forefront of the response – and get the visibility they deserve. Teams from UNICEF's programme units – Water and Sanitation, Child Protection, Health, Nutrition, and Education – are working with national authorities to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, with support from USAID and the Government of Japan.
Arie Rukmantara, a UNICEF Field Office Chief, currently supports BNPB's media briefings. He says the team uses every opportunity to promote issues that are vital to children and their families.
"Recently, our Child Protection Specialist appeared on the BNPB daily briefing to speak about how parents can help their children learn from home. With schools closed, more than 60 million Indonesian children now rely on homeschooling. So parents need to know how to support their children and get involved in UNICEF-supported home school programmes," he said.
Initiatives like 'Rumah Belajar,' an online platform, are providing learning content and a learning management system for digital classrooms. UNICEF is also working with education authorities to integrate TV, radio, and print into the curriculum. This will help ensure all children, even those in remote areas or with limited internet access can keep learning during the pandemic. `
Although children are not at a high risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus, they are vulnerable to the economic and social impact the pandemic brings. UNICEF's support to government efforts aims to reduce the many negative effects happening during this outbreak and, more importantly, after this crisis ends.