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At a glance: Indonesia

UNICEF and partners pursue equity for poor villagers on remote Indonesian islands

By Chris Niles

UNICEF’s equity-based approach to achieving the Millennium Development Goals aims to reach the poorest and most vulnerable children and families with cost-effective interventions for sustainable progress. Here is one in a series of stories that make the case for equity.

NEW YORK, USA, 2 May 2011 – Atubul Dol is one of Indonesia’s most remote villages. It’s on Yamdena Island in the far south-east of the country – much closer to Darwin, Australia than to Jakarta, the capital.

UNICEF correspondent Chris Niles reports on UNICEF's efforts to ensure that all Indonesians share in the country's growing prosperity.  Watch in RealPlayer


With its lush scenery and deserted beaches, Yamdena seems like paradise. But for locals, paradise comes with a price. While Indonesia has tremendous natural resources and is a member of the G-20, its prosperity is not noticeable in places like Yamdena Island.

“I am very worried, not just for my children but for everyone in this village,” said Atubul Dol village leader Alexander Snyompwaim. “We don't have the opportunities and services, because we are a small village. We need help.”

Health care in remote villages

UNICEF Malaria Officer Dr. Olivi Silalahi makes the trip to Yamdena Island regularly, travelling by plane, car, ferry and, finally, outrigger canoe. It’s a complicated journey but much quicker than it was in the past.

© UNICEF video
Villagers on remote Yamdena Island in Indonesia used to live in fear of malaria, but now UNICEF and partners are working to provide them with quality health care.

“In these last few years, the flights have improved. We can reach here by plane daily. But before, it was difficult. We might have to wait one or two weeks,” said Dr. Silalahi.

Neighbouring Lorolun village provides health care for the people of Atubul Dol and other local villages too poor to have their own clinic.

“Before, our health service was okay, it was working but needed improvement. Since UNICEF has come, it's much better,” said the head of the Lorolun Village Health Centre, Agustinus Jabarmase. “Now, from our health centre, every month we provide service to those remote villages.”

Below the poverty line

Indonesia comprises more than 17,500 islands, and the vast sweep of the archipelago is one reason why not all of its people are participating in the country’s economic boom. About a third of the population lives below the international poverty line.

“Indonesia must use the money that it has in support of the Millennium Development Goals with equity, because if it does not, the opportunities lost will be absolutely huge,” said UNICEF Representative in Indonesia Angela Kearney.

Education is one field where opportunities for sustainable growth are being missed. Most Indonesian children go to primary school – enrolment is around 85 per cent – but fewer go on to secondary education. Children from low-income families fare the worst.

UNICEF is working with the government on allocating resources to encourage disadvantaged families to keep their children in school.

© UNICEF video
Despite a growing economy and rich natural resources, about a third of Indonesians live below the international poverty line.

Significant challenges

Indonesia’s improvements in maternal, child and infant mortality rates also disguise a number of significant challenges. About a fifth of children under the age of five are underweight. Nearly two-thirds of rural households lack adequate sanitation. And HIV remains a constant threat, especially in eastern provinces.

Over the next five years, UNICEF plans on working with its partners to ensure that the country’s gains in prosperity are shared by all.

“In many respects, Indonesia is very lucky. It has huge resources and so our job at UNICEF is to support the government to use those resources,” said Ms. Kearney. “The costs of not doing it absolutely far outweigh the benefits of doing it.”

‘We really need support’

With no health clinic, no phone service and only 12 hours a day of electricity, equity cannot come too soon for the people of Atubul Dol.

“This is our village, our land, our home, where we were born. And with or without good services, we are very happy to live here,” said village leader Snyompwaim. “Because of our situation, we really need support from the government or other organizations to build our village and make it equal to other places.”



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