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At a glance: Indonesia

'Progress for Children': New house, new garden and new chance at a healthy life in Aceh

UNICEF Image: Indonesia, Water and Sanitation
© UNICEF Indonesia/2007/Stechert
Mega, 27, lost her father, two brothers and her home during the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004.

By Anna K. Stechert

Here is the first in a series of stories on successful initiatives to promote healthy lives, provide quality education, combat HIV and AIDS, and protect children against abuse, exploitation and violence – all part of a special edition of 'Progress for Children', UNICEF’s flagship publication on advances towards the Millennium Development Goals. The report will be launched on 10 December.

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia, 21 November 2007 – If you ask Mega where her original house was located, she points to the ground under her feet. “You are standing on it,” she says. Mega’s house, like most of the homes in her community, was destroyed during the earthquakes and tsunami that struck this coastal region on 26 December 2004.

Mega’s father and two of her brothers were lost in the tsunami. The rest of the family stayed in nearby barracks for a year after their house was washed away. Since last year, however, Mega, her mother and her younger brother have returned to their village, Lamkruet, situated on the coast of the Indian Ocean on the outskirts of the city of Banda Aceh. The family’s new house is equipped with an environmentally friendly sanitation system.

In 2004, 42 per cent of the world’s population – 2.6 billion people – were without improved sanitation facilities. Lack of sanitation, along with poor hygiene and unsafe drinking water, contributes to the deaths, from diarrhoeal diseases, of more than 1.5 million children each year. Although sanitation coverage has increased in recent years, the rate of progress is not sufficient to meet the target set by the Millennium Development Goals.

UNICEF Image: Indonesia, Water and Sanitation
© UNICEF Indonesia/2007/Stechert
In the village of Lamkruet, near Banda Aceh, newly constructed homes are equipped with environmentally friendly sanitation systems.

Keeping clean and growing green

In 274 newly constructed homes in Lamkruet, septic tanks were installed to provide a receptacle for waste and prevent it from leaking into the groundwater, which is often used as a source of drinking water. The waste water from the septic tanks is filtered and used to fertilize plants and flowers.

Outreach officers visited each home, teaching homeowners about the septic systems and how to maintain them, assisting in deciding on the best location and layout for their gardens and providing information on how best to care for plants. Through another project, the homes will soon be equipped with a piped water system.

A special event at the village children’s centre featured activities in which children learned how to wash their hands properly, plant flowers and take care of the environment, and how to prevent illness stemming from unclean water sources.

Waste disposal systems

Solid waste disposal facilities were constructed in Lamkruet as well. Garbage is collected from each house three times a week in return for a small fee. At the new waste facility outside the village, organic waste is composted, inorganic waste is separated for recycling and non-recyclable waste is collected. This reduces the volume of waste dumped in the city landfill by over 60 per cent.

“This household-level solution for the liquid and solid waste is both safe for the environment and, most importantly, safe for the residents’ health,” says UNICEF’s Project Officer for water and environmental sanitation in Banda Aceh, Dara Johnston.

The village established a committee to organize trash collection. The committee also functions as a resource centre for the community, providing information on maintenance of the sanitation system and solid waste.

Mega smiles proudly as she looks at the papayas growing in her garden. “I really like this project,” she says.



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