Reflections on CRC Article 6

Every child has the right to be alive. Governments must make sure that children survive and develop in the best possible way.

Laksmi Pamuntjak
Boys and a fallen mosque after the earthquake in Sulawesi 2018
01 November 2019

By now the images are all too familiar. Children trapped in holes as the liquefying ground beneath them turn into jelly. Villages reduced to a mass of wood and twisted concrete. Broken minarets lying across the debris. Rescuers clawing through the rubble in search of survivors. Pandemonium at the airport as people begged for a flight out. People swarming around a tanker truck with their jerry cans, scrambling for fuel.

When you’re poor, nothing makes you poorer faster than a disaster of this scale. But there is an expiry date to everything, even to natural calamities, after which even the images that have haunted us for so long start to fade away from our memory. And with them the loss of the human stories behind them.

In almost all post-disaster narratives, recovery is often the hardest story to tell. Not because they tend to focus too much on stories of human resilience—an aspect that gives consolation and hope—but because for every story of survival there is an untold story of devastation and misery that have fallen through the cracks. It is impossible after what happened in Sulawesi—an island of 18 million people—where more than 2,000 people are known to have perished, at least 4,400 injured, and 600,000 children affected—to put a number on the sort of physical, financial and emotional damage inflicted, especially on young children.

Today, a stroll through Palu, the capital city of Central Sulawesi, shows a city in recovery. The markets are getting busy, the beaches are coming alive, tourism is back. But for many survivors, the task of starting over again is only starting: putting a roof over their heads, getting a job, building up savings, going to school, securing access to health services and social protection, not to mention salvaging what little is left of history, memory, heritage, a sense of community.

Time heals, but the task of rebuilding lives—or, as the famous ending of Voltaire’s Candide, a tribute to the Lisbon Earthquake of 1855, counsels us, “cultivating our garden” (“Il faut cultiver au jardin”)—can take years. Years of faith, goodwill and commitment.

Though these reflections were inspired by the accompanying photographs, the texts do not describe the life or story of any person depicted within them.


Convention on the rights of the child

Convention says what countries must do so that all children grow as healthy as possible, can learn at school, are protected, have their views listened to, and are treated fairly.

As part of Indonesia’s celebrations in November 2019, to mark the 30th anniversary of the CRC, UNICEF asked Indonesian author Laksmi Pamuntjak to help us envision some of these CRC articles. Inspired by photos and images from our database, and working with our programme specialists, Laksmi created 15 fictional texts on some of the most relevant articles for the Indonesian context.

Though these reflections were inspired by the accompanying photographs, the texts do not describe the life or story of any person depicted within them.