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Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey in Bahamyenti

© UNICEF/2011/Gerber
Crossing a stream on the way to Bahamyenti

Reaching the village of Bahamyenti in West Papua is not easy. From the provincial capital Manokwari, it’s a strenuous two-hour drive up the mountains on rough potholed roads, which can only be accomplished with a four-wheel drive vehicle. On the way, two rather large rivers have to be crossed without bridges, making the journey even more difficult and sometimes impossible in rainy season. But this is not all. Once the dirt road ends in the village of Amber, it’s another two hours hiking uphill on steep and slippery paths, through muddy patches, and across a few streams – again without bridges. After the last stretch through a tropical forest, the houses of Bahamyenti finally appear.

Rarely anybody undertakes this long and tiring trip, making visitors rare and very special in this small village with only five households. But today is an exception: A group of six men and women is approaching the village. They introduce themselves as a survey team from BPS, the Statistics Office of Indonesia. Pak Tajudin, their leader, explains to the Secretary of Village, Pak Marinus Mandacan, that Bahamyenti has been selected to participate in an important household survey called MICS, Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, which BPS carries out in cooperation with UNICEF in the provinces of Papua and West Papua.

Since the mid-1990s, with UNICEF’s support MICS has enabled more than 100 countries to produce statistically sound and internationally comparable estimates of a range of indicators in the areas of health, education, child protection and HIV/AIDS which have been used extensively as a basis for policy decisions and programme interventions, and for the purpose of influencing public opinion on the situation of children and women around the world. MICS data are collected during face-to-face interviews in nationally representative samples of households, generating one of the world’s largest sources of statistical information on children and women. “The MICS process enables us to mine for valuable data that is critical to effective planning for children and women,” says UNICEF Representative in Indonesia, Angela Kearney. “Policies, service design, decision-making and resource allocations are all stronger when built on a foundation of evidence, and it is that base which the MICS helps to construct.”

“We would like to interview the people of Bahamyenti to find out more about their living conditions, their behaviours and their needs. Based on this, the Government will be able to better plan how to improve the situation of the people in Papua, especially the children and women,” Pak Tajudin tells Pak Marinus.

Satisfied with this explanation and honoured that his village has been selected for the MICS, Pak Marinus welcomes the team and invites them to start their work. The six of them quickly gather information on the number of households and the number of household members eligible to be interviewed. These include all men and women between 15 and 49 years of age and all children under five years. As the little ones cannot yet respond to complex questions on their living conditions, their mothers or other caregivers will answer the survey for them. Since the questionnaire also includes sensitive questions, for example related to sexual behaviour, and to make sure that the respondents are as comfortable as possible, women will be interviewed by a female and men by a male surveyor.

Pak Tajudin divides the interview tasks between his four surveyors and off they go to interview the people of Bahamyenti. In case a family is sceptical about the survey, Pak Tajudin will come and help to convince them to participate. Once an interview is completed, Pak Taufiqurrahman, the editor, checks the data to make sure nothing is missing.

On the first sight, Bahamyenti looks like an idyllic place to live, beautifully located against the backdrop of the abundantly vegetated mountains: The small wooden houses with their corrugated iron roofs and front porches are set in individual gardens, where fruit trees grow and pigs are kept. Friendly dogs are wandering about, greeting the visitors, and there is even a church. But as the survey confirms, this is just the first sight. Lodiana Mandacan, the wife of Pak Marinus, explains: “All the water we need has to be fetched from a spring, ten minutes away. If it doesn’t rain, it sometimes dries up, so we have to walk up the river until we find water.” Her friend Rusiana Wonggor adds: “We also don’t have any toilet facilities. People just go to the forest. And there is no school for the children. The next elementary school is in Mokwam, two hours walking.

So even the young children have to stay with relatives in Mokwam and can only come home on the weekend, if they go to school.” Health services aren’t available either. “My mother taught me how to help women giving birth,” Ibu Rusiana explains,“but for everything else we have to walk two hours. No health workers have ever visited our village.” This distance may explain why most children in Baha Myenti are not immunized. Little Reno, for example, one of the grandsons of Ibu Lodiana and Pak Marinus, who is about five years old, has only received one dose of oral polio so far, and his seven-year old sister Eni has never been vaccinated at all. While the MICS can certainly not change all this in the blink of an eye, at least the situation and needs in the remote areas of Papua and West Papua will be known, which is the first step to improving them.



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