Monday, January 26, 2015

An Uncomfortable Topic

Nick Baker, Communication and Knowledge Management Officer

JAKARTA, 14 January 2015 - My first press conference at UNICEF Indonesia was one I will not soon forget. Why? Because attending journalists were aged from nine to 12 years old and the main subject was poo.

Ten students participating in Media Indonesia’s Reporter Cilik (Young Reporter) Programme were invited to interview a UNICEF Officer to learn more about an uncomfortable topic - open defecation.

More than 54 million Indonesians defecate in the open, because they don’t have a latrine or a toilet. It’s the second highest number of any country in the world. Only India has a higher number.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Indonesia remembers Tsunami in Aceh and thanks international community

By Devi Asmarani 

Vice President Jusuf Kalla (left) at UNICEF’s stand at the Tsunami Expo accompanied by UNICEF’s Banda Aceh Field Office Coordinator Umar bin Abdul Azis (second left) and UNICEF Indonesia Representative Gunilla Olsson. ©UNICEF Indonesia/2014/Devi Asmarani

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia, 26 December 2014 - Thousands of people gathered in Aceh today in a solemn and moving ceremony to remember the Indian Ocean tsunami that devastated much of Indonesia’s westernmost province 10 years ago today. 

Many survivors as well as local and foreign dignitaries attending the ceremony at the Blang Padang public park in the provincial capital of Banda Aceh burst into tears as they listened to poems and songs that were performed accompanied by photos and videos of the disaster.

Acehnese singer Rafly led the audience to sing along with him to a haunting folk song in the local dialect, and prominent poet Taufik Ismail read a poem that recalled the giant waves that swept about 170,000 people to their death.

"Thousands of corpses were sprawled in this field,” said Vice President Jusuf Kalla at the ceremony. “There were feelings of confusion, shock, sorrow, fear and suffering. We prayed.”

But he said the massive help received for Aceh immediately after the tsunami, which left nearly half a million people displaced, helped revive the spirit of the survivors.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

How the chaos post-tsunami helped Aceh become a child protection pioneer

When a child is accused of a crime, the police tries to use mediation to resolve the situation and in more than half of the case, it works. © UNICEF Indonesia/2014/Achmadi

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia, October 2014 – About a year ago, three teenage boys were arrested by police at a sports stadium in Banda Aceh for beating up a 21-year-old man. Two of the boys were 17 and the third had just turned 18. In the past, they would have ended up in jail. But thanks to some far-reaching legal reforms, initiated after the Indian Ocean tsunami, things developed in a different direction.

They were held for 24 hours at the children’s unit at the police station while their families as well as the heads of the villages where they lived were contacted. The victim’s family and village head were also asked to attend the police station where all the parties sat down to talk.

This is a process known as mediation. Police records don’t show how long it took in this instance, but officers say on average its takes three mediation sessions to resolve a case.

The families talked about the situation and tried to come to an agreement about how the perpetrators should be punished. In the end, the families of the three boys agreed to pay the medical expenses of the victim within ten days, or face a court case. The three were then released.

Ten years ago, the police had no mandate to facilitate a mediation like this. The boys would have been facing a trial and a maximum jail sentence of five years. Children used to be treated much like adults when they were accused of committing an offense or a crime. But since the tsunami struck the area on the 26th of December 2004, Indonesia’s Aceh province has made huge strides in how it deals with children who come into contact with the law.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

The long-term benefits of Building Back Better

Students carry  a victim during an earthquake drill at Muhammadiyah 1 Primary school in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. © UNICEF Indonesia/2014/Achmadi

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia, October 2014 - Picture this: It’s a Sunday morning in late December in Banda Aceh. You’re awaken by a strong earthquake early in the morning and you know something is wrong.

Soon, you’re running away from the forceful tsunami water that flattens almost everything in its wake. You’ve lost sight of family members, and your only thought is saving your life by getting to higher ground. You reach the top of a hill, along with others, some of whom have been injured in the scramble to escape the water.

Looking down at the town of Banda Aceh below you, you see a picture of devastation. Trees, houses and roads have been washed away. Debris is piled everywhere – sheet metal, rubble, branches….and bodies. You’ve lost everything and you have no idea if or how your family members have survived. All infrastructure is gone. And as your mind tries to come to terms with what has just happened, it suddenly occurs to you – I’ve survived this disaster, but what am I going to drink, eat? Where am I going to sleep?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Surviving the tsunami, creating a better future

17-weeks pregnant and carrying her three-year-old daughter at the time, Rosna credited her survival to a TV programme about tsunami that made her aware of what was coming after the powerful earthquake. © UNICEF Indonesia/2014/Achmadi

JANTHO, Indonesia, October 2014 - Rosna was saved from the tsunami by her television. She had seen a nature programme about earthquakes and volcanoes and seismic activity. When she felt the large quake that preceded and caused the Indian Ocean tsunami on 26th December 2004, she suspected what might be about to happen.

17 weeks pregnant with her second child at the time, she ran from her house in Banda Aceh, carrying her three-year-old daughter Cut Rachmina with her. Although caught up in the water, she managed to reach higher ground without injury and was eventually reunited with her husband Johansyah, who had also managed to escape.

The disaster wiped out most of Banda Aceh, but Rosna’s family was extremely lucky to survive. Their home, however, had been destroyed. They had no water, no food and could not save any of their possessions. In the space of a few hours they had gone from house owners to IDPs – internally displaced people. A makeshift tent became their home.