Thursday, 30 November 2017

In West Papua, midwives a key to halting HIV

By Cory Rogers, Communication Officer
Stevlin receives an ultrasound reading at a community health centre in Sorong, West Papua © Cory Rogers / UNICEF / 2017
Sorong::With the ultrasound humming, Stevlin, 32, a mother of five, lies down on the examination table. 

Soon, fuzzy thumps flood the room, and she breaks into a grin: It's not every day one hears their child’s heartbeat for the first time.

Stevlin’s come to the Malawei community health centre in Sorong, West Papua Province, for an antenatal check-up.

“I have to make sure my pregnancy goes well so that my baby is born healthy," she says, furrowing her brow. Stevlin lost a child to health complications in the early 2000’s, and is determined to do all she can to ensure her new baby is healthy as can be. That means eating well, exercising, sleeping enough, and testing for diseases -- especially HIV.

“West Papua has an HIV risk 15 times the national average, so testing is an absolute must for pregnant mothers here,” says Beth Nurlely, a UNICEF Indonesia Health Officer based in the province. 

Though there is a 1 in 3 chance of passing HIV on to a child absent treatment, across Indonesia just 14 per cent of mothers get tested for the virus.

“With antiretroviral therapy, the rate of transmission is reduced to near zero,” Nurlely adds. “We need to find creative ways to increase testing.”

Papua on the frontlines

Sorong, a gritty port town in the West Papua Province of Papua*, is one of four cities (Surabaya in East Java Province, West Jakarta in DKI Jakarta and Bandung in West Java Province) where UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) have been testing new approaches to preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT). 

In Papua, the risk of transmission has spread beyond vulnerable groups like sex workers into the general population, putting mothers like Stevlin and her baby at risk. Indeed, without marked increases in access to testing and treatment nationwide, experts say the number of children infected with HIV will double over the next decade. 

A pregnant mother and her young daughter wait in line to be seen at a village health post in Sorong, West Papua © Cory Rogers / UNICEF / 2017

Despite the danger, Stevlin says it wasn’t until 2014 that she received her first test, by which time she’d already given birth to three children.  

“To be honest, I don’t really know what HIV is, but I do know I need [to test for it],” she says, as a midwife pricks her finger for blood. 

“I get nervous now. l want to know my status right away.” 

Empowering bidan

That Stevlin’s rapid HIV test was administered by one of the health centre’s bidan (midwives) is a significant achievement. 

“Historically, only lab specialists have been permitted to do tests,” Nurlely says. “But there is a shortage of these trained professionals in West Papua. This has become a big bottleneck on testing.”

Persuading local governments to train midwives and allow them to carry out rapid testing is a major goal of the UNICEF pilots nationwide. In Sorong, the breakthrough came in September 2014, when the local government agreed such a reform would boost testing and protect mothers and babies.

A midwife at Malawei initiates Stevlin's HIV test © Cory Rogers / UNICEF / 2017

“We succeeded in convincing officials that the number of lab specialists was insufficient to cover testing needs, and so midwives were freed to do this important work,” Nurlely says.

Three years since that reform, testing has increased to 60 per cent among pregnant women in Sorong – some five times the national average.

Ending ‘informed consent’

Training midwives to treat HIV like any other blood test has been another key to reducing PMTCT, says Roys Fetty Mulalinda, the head midwife at Malawei.

Before the UNICEF intervention, pregnant women were required to sign a consent form to take an HIV test. This sounds good in theory, but consenting to a test in this way implies negative associations and, says Nurlely, reflects the stigma against the disease, which many view as a kind of curse. 

Now, thanks to the advocacy of local government, Roys Fetty says the consent forms are gone and the test has become commonplace. Now instead, women have to sign a waiver to opt out of the HIV test acknowledging their understanding of the risks to themselves and to their babies.

“If a pregnant woman comes here, the HIV test is basically automatic,” Roys Fetty says. “The only reason they wouldn’t get tested [on our end] is if there was a stock-out.” 

Stevlin smiles after learning she is HIV negative © Cory Rogers / UNICEF / 2017

A new grant from the Global Fund will allow UNICEF and the Government of Indonesia to expand the pilot to 28 districts next year, which will help build nationally on the successes seen in Sorong.

That four out of 10 pregnant women still decline HIV tests, however, suggests there’s room to do even more.   

“If we want to reach all pregnant mothers, we need a provincial-level law  that applies more broadly,” Nurlely says.

Such a regulation in the province has yet to be passed, but signs are hopeful: local-level PMTCT reforms are already underway in 10 of Papua’s 13 districts. Hopefully, it won’t be long until all pregnant mothers have access to this vital test.

*Papua is the island on Indonesia’s eastern frontier formed by West Papua and Papua, the country’s two poorest provinces.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Including Raisyam

By Cory Rogers, Communication Officer

Raisyham with his mother © Cory Rogers / UNICEF / 2017

Bogor: From the safety of his mother’s arms, Rayisham, 5, squints at his classmates laughing and dancing in the early morning sun.

“He wants so bad to get better,” says Dian, 24, Rayisham’s mother.

She stands near the crowd of 40 or so four and five year old children at Hidyatul Hasanah Preschool near Bogor, West Java – a satellite city of 1 million south of Jakarta.  “He’s always saying ‘Mom, I want to play again, I want to run again. I tell him to be patient, that God willing, he’ll be able to walk one day.”

Monday, 6 November 2017

Reaching Adam

By Cory Rogers, Communication Officer

Ibu Ana with Adam at his home outside Tulungagung © Cory Rogers / UNICEF / 2017

Tulungagung: “You can tell where they worked by the design of the house,” says Ibu Ana as we rumble past large, multi-roofed homes on the way to Ibu Katiyah’s place. 

Two years ago Ibu Katiyah returned to this corner of East Java with her three-year-old son Adam – 27 years after first departing. Ibu Ana, a government welfare worker, met them while verifying welfare rolls, and the two became fast friends.

“Migrant labourers like to build big houses here like the ones they work in overseas,” Ibu Ana adds as we zig and zag, dodging chickens, potholes and the occasional shingle.

“But Ibu Katiyah didn’t have enough money to build one. She lives in a dirt-floor home up the road.” 

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Pioneering survey asks 8-12-year-old Indonesians: what's life like?

By Cory Rogers, Communication Officer

© Cory Rogers / UNICEF / 2017

Preadolescents have a lot to say about life.

Take this 11-year-old boy from Indonesian Borneo, or Jenni (pictured below), who lives in Indonesia’s province of West Java. The 10-year-old says being a good friend is something you learn with practice.

 “A good friend should always be there to help you through difficulties,” says Jenni (centre). “Real friends come to your house when you’re sick, and you go to their house when they are.” © Cory Rogers / UNICEF / 2017

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

#GirlsTakeOver: Adolescents take action to end child marriage

By Fadilla Dwianti, Child Protection Officer

21 adolescents selected from 12 provinces pose for a picture with Deputy of Child Development at Ministry of Women Empowerment and Child Protection Lenny N. Rosalin, UNICEF Chief Child Protection Amanda Bissex, and Country Director Plan International Indonesia Myrna Remata-Emora/©UNICEF/Fadilla Putri/2017 

It wasn’t out of the ordinary for Indonesia’s Minister of Women Empowerment and Child Protection to deliver a speech for International Day of the Girl Child. 

Except that this year, the minister was a 19-year-old girl.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Mainstreaming menstrual health in Makassar

By Andi Bunga Tongeng

A participant in the training explains her approach to mainstreaming MHM in schools © Andi Bung Tongeng / UNICEF/ 2017

Makassar: "Did this game teach you anything you didn’t know before?" Saskia Raishaputri Moestadjab, a UNICEF consultant, asked participants at a Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) training in Makassar, South Sulawesi.

A man named Ilham raised his hand and replied: "Well, now I know there are two kinds of menstrual pads – disposable and reusable."

The room burst into embarrassed laughter: even at this adult training session, it seemed odd to hear a man talk about menstrual pads. 

Friday, 29 September 2017

Going all out for every child: East Java's success in the Measles-Rubella campaign

By UNICEF Indonesia

East Java Governor Dr. Soekarwo (centre) helps one boy with his MR vaccine at an Islamic boarding school in Madura, East Java ©Office of the East Java Governor/2017

Surabaya: As Indonesia’s largest-ever immunisation campaign draws to a close, it is clear that its success is due to strong government leadership and committed partners working together.

The 2017 Measles and Rubella (MR) vaccination campaign aims to immunize 35 million children aged 9 months to 15 years old across Java Island, where half of Indonesia’s population lives. 

Led by the Government of Indonesia, with support from partners such as UNICEF, GAVI, the Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI) and others, planning for the two-month campaign began many months prior to the 1 August launch to ensure the ambitious targets were met. 

The campaign in East Java Province typifies this collaborative approach, as strong leadership by the provincial government has been instrumental in enabling the province to exceed the  benchmark set down by the central government of  95 per cent coverage. 

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Community-based management of acute malnutrition: A new hope for children

By Blandina Rosalina Bait, Nutrition Officer

Disan Tallo with his mother, Yustina Tallo @UNICEF Indonesia/2017/Blandina Rosalina Bait

“If I had agreed to enrol Disan in the Community Based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) program earlier, he would have gotten healthy faster,” said Yustina Tallo, mother of 15-month-old Disan Tallo, in a small village in East Nusa Tenggara Province.

Yustina still feels guilty remembering how she rejected the diagnosis of ‘severe acute malnutrition’ by health workers at the puskesmas, or local community health centre, just a few months back. She found it difficult to believe them; though Disan was often sick with flu, diarrhoea and fever, she was confident he was, at root, just as healthy as his 8- and 5-year-old siblings. 

UNICEF is working with the Ministry of Health, local government authorities and Action Against Hunger to educate parents about the link between good nutrition and growth, and to bring counselling services from health centres directly to the homes of children in need. These initiatives form the core of the CMAM model.

In Disan’s case, Yustina was already 12 weeks pregnant when she found out she was carrying a child. He was born premature, weighting just 2.1kg at birth.

For the first six months, Disan was exclusively breastfed. Then Yustina began adding complementary foods like porridge and soft vegetables. But  Disan fell ill often, and trips to the puskesmas became nearly routine.

During these visits, health workers told Yustina that Disan was likely suffering from severe acute malnutrition, for which the foods he was eating were an insufficient remedy. 

Eventually, after two months, they persuaded her to enrol Disan in the CMAM programme. As a first step, Disan was given Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), a peanut-based paste enriched with essential vitamins and minerals. However, shortly after starting the feeding programme, Disan fell sick. Yustina blamed the RUTF, and subsequently discontinued the programme. 

After a few weeks, health workers noticed Disan wasn’t gaining weight. In line with the CMAM mandate, health workers visited Yustina at home and coached her on the benefits of RUTF, explaining that Disan’s sickness was not related to the RUTF but was a symptom of another illness. 

After repeated visits from health workers and Action Against Hunger employees, Yustina agreed to see the programme through. Soon, Disan began gaining weight, which motivated his mother to bring him to the puskesmas for weekly visits. Today he has mounted a full recovery, and is a happy, healthy, energetic young boy.

“I cannot imagine the result if I had ignored treatment for Disan,” she says. For Yustina, the CMAM programme is a new hope for families with severe acute malnourished children.

“I can’t say enough about the health workers who never gave up trying to convince me to enrol Disan in the CMAM programme, and who did home visits to motivate me to feed him appropriately and provide continuous counselling,” she said.

With the grassroots health initiative now in full swing, more and more children like Disan will be reached with lifesaving nutrition support through the CMAM programme.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Ibu Federica is setting the tone for education in Tanah Papua

By Saskia Raishaputri Moestadjab

Ibu Federica sits in the greeting room at Santo Rafael © Saskia Raishaputri Moestadjab//UNICEF/2017

Timika: "I am aware of my role and duty. I am a teacher. Being aware of those obligations is what I share with my fellow teachers, that a teacher is coming to school not merely to teach. If it were like that, a junior high student could do the job." 

Ibu Federica Lope, from Santo Rafael primary school in Timika, Papua, is not your typical principal.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

RapidPro: a secret weapon behind the Measles-Rubella campaign

By Cory Rogers, Communication Officer

Fatul and Akhsan show off Akhsan’s purple thumb at the village health post, indicating he’s has already received his MR vaccine  © Cory Rogers / UNICEF / 2017

Semarang: “Akhsan’s mother works at the garment factory during the day, I work nights,” says Fathul in Regunang, Central Java, a shady, rolling village in sight of Mt. Merbabu, a 3,145m volcano rising slowly from the hills. 

“It’s just me here today.”

He and 3-year-old son Akhsan are the lone father/child pair on the lawn of the village health post, but they are at ease; like the 30 mother/child pairs, they’ve come for Measles and Rubella (MR) vaccines -- two diseases that, while entirely preventable, can be deadly to children. 

“Did it hurt? Fathul asks Akhsan, who is busy watching throngs of toddlers in various stages of fear and relief, seemingly amused by the commotion. Akhsan shakes his head no. “He didn’t cry once! Fathul boasts. “Not once!”

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Vaccine for Tian and the dreams of Indonesian children

By Dinda Veska, PSFR Communication Officer

Tian (6). His inked little finger means he has received Measles and Rubella vaccine. @Dinda Veska/UNICEF Indonesia/2017
Surabaya: It’s not much past dawn and Tian is already at school. Unlike the majority of his classmates, he’s excited.

Today is vaccination day at Serba Guna Kindergarten in Tegal Sari, Surabaya, and most children dreaded the day; as health officers arrived, their shrill cries fill the room. Not Tian, though; he has looked forward to it.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

In West Java, learning to play, playing to learn

By Cory Rogers, Communication Officer

Alifah plays outside her preschool with her mother © Cory Rogers / UNICEF / 2017

Bogor: "When we color, we have to go slow because Alifah loves it so much she doesn’t want to stop,” says Neng Selphia, 29, a teacher at Aisyayah Baiturrahman Preschool and Kindergarten in the West Java district of Leuwiliang.

Shy by nature, Alifah lights up when it’s time to draw. Of all the colors, she says red is her favorite.

It is 10 am and the sun is already high in the sky, the humid air seemingly on boil. Alifah sits with six 4-year-olds sit on the floor eating an early lunch of bubur ayam (rice porridge), her doting mother an arm’s length away.

In a booming alto, Neng tries to keep the children from crawling over the desks: “What is a word that begins with ‘A’?” she queries. “Ayah, (father)!” one child shouts, the only to respond.

For the most part, however, Neng is keeping children focused on how to glue paper to paper -- and from wandering outside.

“We need more training on how to approach every kind of child, those that get angry, those that cry, etc.” Neng says. Cluttered shelves full of half-colored paper and two sets of faded color wood blocks sit behind her, badly needing upgrading.

Only a few of Bogor’s preschools – which have some of the lowest preschool attendance rates in Java – have teachers with undergraduate degrees. And fewer still have teachers with training on how to teach preschool.

“We need more evaluations [of our performance as teachers], too,” Neng adds.

Early education pilot

As part of a new 3-year, UNICEF-led ECD initiative funded by IKEA, Neng and hundreds of other teachers in Bogor will receive training on dynamic, age-appropriate teaching methods. Schools will also receive funds to improve teaching tools, upgrade classrooms and make them safer for children like Alifa.

At Aisyayah Baiturrahman, the money will likely go to replace an asbestos roof and upgrade flimsy plywood walls. “The walls can fall down if children push on them, and that makes me afraid they might get hurt,” Neng says.

The programme will support 100 ECD centres in the district improve all aspects of their instruction, “helping teachers and parents nurture the social. emotional and cognitive foundations necessary for children to develop to their potential,” says Meliana Istanto, UNICEF Indonesia Education Officer.

The idea is to instill an appreciation for ‘playing as learning’ among teachers and parents alike, and to save literacy skills for Kindergarten, when the brain is more developed and such instruction becomes empowering. Studies show such an approach to preschool is one of the best ways to give every child an equal chance to succeed in life.

Getting parents on board can be a challenge, however. They get confused, says Misem Hidaya (who manages 10 of the area preschools and holds a bachelor’s degree in preschool education), if preschool teachers don’t make reading and writing skills a priority.

“They can consider it a waste of money,” Misem says, alluding to the $4 USD monthly fees that supplement the government's small operational funds to keep preschools up and running. “It is important for us [teachers] to explain to them [parents] that this [preschool] is not primary school – it is an education that is appropriate to their ages,” she adds.

Such age-appropriate learning means structured playtime that emphasizes the development of motor skills and social awareness.

In Alifa’s case, her mother, Reni, says she can tell drawing and coloring among her peers helps her build independence.

“I hope preschool will help her become smarter, to become more confident in herself,” she adds.

It is a hope shared by hundreds of other families who stand to benefit from the new preschool programme in the district.

“I hope Alifah will be more ambitious than me. She’s already getting braver.”

Monday, 28 August 2017

Haze-proofing in Indonesian Borneo

By Cory Rogers, Communication Officer

Simple materials like these were used to test the efficacy of low-cost air sealing methods with partners in Palangka Raya, Central Kalimantan, a haze hotspot © Cory Rogers / UNICEF / 2017

Palangka Raya: Locals in Palangka Raya, Central Kalimantan, say haze gets so bad they sometimes can’t get home.

“I fish for a living,” says Ipung, a lissome father of two who lives on the edge of the Rungan River, 40 minutes upstream from Palanga Raya. “When the haze came we suffered; children missed school, and we all got coughs.”

His village of Katimpun lies close by the annual peat fires that shroud parts of Kalimantan -- Indonesia's portion of the island of Borneo -- in blankets of haze every year. Since December 2016, UNICEF has been working to find ways to help families like Ipung’s keep their children safe from the acrid smoke.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Justice for Kids in Banda Aceh

By Cory Rogers, Communication Officer

Yudha looks out from the window at the LPKS social services centre © Cory Rogers / UNICEF / 2017

Banda Aceh: When the cops came knocking 17-year-old Yudha was on the couch with his uncle and no time to run.

“They took me outside and asked me where I got the drugs,” Yudha said, picking at his nails at the facility in Aceh where he’s now being held.
He and his uncle had just finished smoking meth (or sabu-sabu as it is known locally) and both were in a drug-addled fog. “I told them I got the sabu-sabu from my friends,” Yudha said.

Yudha now admits he procured the meth himself. He says he’d been smoking it casually since middle school, but after his parents split up the habit began to grow; he stopped going to school, avoided going home and, in part to fuel his nascent addiction, began dealing.

In a country known for strict drug laws, the prospect of Yudha going to prison, even as a juvenile, was real. Though alternatives like social rehabilitation have grown in recent decades, thousands of children are still in prisons.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Nationwide Measles-Rubella immunization campaign kicks off

By Cory Rogers, Communication Officer

Students play outside their school prior to the start of the Measles-Rubella immunization campaign launch event in Sleman, Yogyakarta. The immunization push is part of the Government’s pledge to eliminate Measles and Rubella by 2020. © Cory Rogers / UNICEF / 2017

Yogyakarta: The Government of Indonesia kicked off its most ambitious immunization drive to date this week in Yogyakarta, with aims to vaccinate 35 million children in Java against Measles and Rubella (MR) by the end of next month. Another 35 million children will be targeted in all other provinces in August and September 2018.

The launch event, held at State Islamic Junior High School 10 in Sleman, Yogyakarta, was officiated by President Joko Widodo.  “We all have a duty as parents, and a duty as the State to protect our children, to make sure they’re healthy,” Jokowi told hundreds of Yogyakartans gathered at the school. “Parents, schools – we all need to explain that immunization is important for our children.


President Jokowi stops by a classroom and sits with students awaiting their MR vaccines. The Government will administer the MR vaccine to any child between the ages of 9 months and 15 years free of charge and integrate the vaccine into the standard package of immunizations. The goal is to achieve 95 per cent coverage by the end of September 2018 and to eliminate both diseases by 2020. © Cory Rogers / UNICEF / 2017.

A young girl receives her MR vaccination, which prevents both diseases and has been used in more than 141 countries in the world. The vaccinations will be administered in schools in the month of August. In September, the immunizations will move to local health centres and health posts. © Cory Rogers / UNICEF / 2017.

Grace Melia, founder of the online parents’ community Rumah Ramah Rubella, speaks about the challenge of caring for her daughter Aubrey, who was born with a severe case of Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS). While the symptoms are mild in children and adults, when contracted by pregnant women, Rubella can cause miscarriage or CRS which can harm foetal development causing disabilities like heart defects, brain tissue damage, eye cataracts, deafness and developmental delays.
© Cory Rogers / UNICEF / 2017

From left to right, President Jokowi, First Lady Iriana, Yogyakarta Governor Sultan Hamengkubuwono X, Coordinating Human Development and Culture Minister Puan Maharani, and Minister of Health Nina Moeloek converse with three students at the end of the campaign launch event. Most schools in Indonesia have agreed to administer the immunization. In a small number of communities, however, misinformation has given rise to the idea that vaccines are considered haram, or forbidden by Islam. UNICEF has worked closely with the Government to counter this myth with an outreach strategy that highlights widespread Muslim acceptance of immunizations. © Cory Rogers / UNICEF / 2017

Friday, 14 July 2017

Fighting Malnutrition with Community-Based Treatment

By Blandina Bait, Nutrition Officer

UNICEF is supporting the Government of Indonesia to implement the CMAM nutrition programme © UNICEF / 2017

Two-year-old Alfredo had been suffering from persistent diarrhoea for two days when his worried mother, Yosina, took him to the village health center, known as a puskesmas, near their rural farming community in East Nusa Tenggara Province, Indonesia.

The boy was very weak and looked pale; the health worker on duty confirmed that Alfredo had severe acute malnutrition (SAM).

“I was torn and shocked to learn that Alfredo was suffering from severe acute malnutrition,” said Yosina. She was even more alarmed to learn that SAM made Alfredo more vulnerable to diseases which could lead to death.

Yosina did not hesitate when the health worker advised her to enrol him in the Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) programme for children aged 6-59 months. Though the cost of the one-hour round trip ($4) to the puskesmas for Alfredo’s weekly treatment would be a significant expenditure for the family of subsistence rice farmers, she and her husband agreed it was important for the sake of Alfredo’s future.

Roots Day Takes Aim at Bullying in Makassar

By Derry Fahrizal Ulum, Child Protection Officer

Students and I during Roots Day activities at one of the photo booths © Derry Ulum / 2017 

Makassar:“I believe that making friends with everybody is a good way to overcome [the problem of] bullying. When we show our closest friends how to behave positively, it influences all students to want to change just like us”.

The above statement was made by one of 30 student ‘change-makers’ during ‘Roots Day’ at SMPN 37 Middle School in Makassar, a regional port town in the southwest of Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island. Roots Day is the culmination of a student-to-student school anti-violence initiative piloted by UNICEF that seeks to eliminate bullying to optimize learning and enhance student safety.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Adolescents take action; adults listen

By Liz Pick, Communications Specialist

The adolescents of Oeletsala village, Kupang, gained new confidence to speak up and voice their ideas through the 'adolescent circle'' © UNICEF Indonesia/2017/Liz Pick

“It’s definitely never happened before. I never thought adults would ever listen to children’s ideas. But the head of the village did listen to us and now we have an easier life.”

So says 17-year-old Ina who lives in Oeletsala village near Kupang, a city in the western end of Timor Island in Eastern Indonesia. She and about 40 others from three nearby villages are part of a pilot programme to help adolescents learn to recognise risks in their environment and identify potential solutions using UNICEF’s Adolescent Kit for Expression and Innovation.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Monitoring Air Quality: Zeroing in on the Haze Problem

By Vania Santoso – Innovations Adolescent and Youth Engagement Officer 

The LaserEgg gives users real-time air quality readings so they can protect themselves from haze and other air pollution © UNICEF Indonesia/2017/Vania Santoso

If someone you trusted told not to go outside because the air was dangerous to breathe, what would you do?

Last March, I went on a four-day mission to Palangka Raya, Kalimantan, ground zero for Indonesia’s haze-blasting agricultural fires, to determine whether real-time air quality monitoring systems might be of use.

In particular, I wanted to gauge interest in small, easy-to-carry air quality monitoring devices, such as the LaserEgg, with potential to provide information about air pollution levels to protect users’ health. What I found is that locals were interested in this type of technology due to its portability and easy readability. But real-world experience had taught them technology was only useful when used properly.

First, I talked to Sadrah and Vivia, two airport workers at Tjilik Riwut Airport. They shrugged off the LaserEgg’s PSI 115 “Unhealthy”’ reading not far from the tarmac. “It’s okay, we’ve seen worse,” Sadrah said. “Back in 2015, when much of Kalimantan was enveloped in a toxic yellow haze, visibility was only some 10 meters,” Vivia recalled.

Lody (left) introduced Laser Egg Air Quality Monitor to Arief, Sadrah, and Bayu © UNICEF Indonesia/2017/Vania Santoso
The next day I met Pak John Pieter from the Meteorological, Climatological and Geophysics Agency. He’s been working on forest fire prevention since 2006. When Lody, a colleague from PulseLab Jakarta, asked him whether an air quality monitor might be useful, Pak John replied, “Well, it tells us information that is good to know. But just knowing something doesn’t change behaviour.”

He compared haze to smoking cigarettes: “People know that it is dangerous, but still do it anyway…they don’t think about the long-term effects.”

Members of Relindo, a volunteer group, made similar points. Local coordinator Pak Joko said the city was already equipped with a downtown air quality reader. “In the past, even when the ISPU showed that levels were ‘dangerous’…people still went about their lives without a mask.” He argued that what was needed was increased government efforts to change behaviours during haze.

Hindris, another Relindo member, said such awareness-raising was crucial. “During the haze, we distributed N95 Masks to people living in affected areas, but they didn’t know how to use them, or what to use them for. Some even complained they were unable to breathe, preferring to cover their mouths with cloth…it was our job to educate them and make them aware of the dangers of not using the masks,” he said.

Pak Joko, Himmam, and Hindris from Relindo © UNICEF Indonesia/2017/Vania Santoso

Our interviewees all seemed to agree that a portable air quality monitor was just a tool. It is equally important to make sure the public knows how to put that knowledge into practice.

“Monitors like the LaserEgg give the public the data to make an informed decision about when to protect themselves. But it doesn’t tell them how and it doesn’t tell them why,” said UNICEF Indonesia Innovations Specialist Valerie Crab.

“Finding ways to trigger behaviour change with answers to those questions will be another innovations challenge,” she added.

Disclosure: The LaserEgg was given as a sample to UNICEF Indonesia by Origins, its distributor in Indonesia. Devices like this tell the user whether the particulate matter in a given location is Good (PSI 0-50), Moderate (PSI 51-100), Unhealthy (PSI 101-200), Very Unhealthy (PSI 201-300), or Hazardous (PSI 301 +). It color-codes these readings for easy comprehension.

Friday, 16 June 2017

BCA and UNICEF continue to partner for children

UNICEF Indonesia’s longest-standing corporate partner of 17 years, Bank BCA, travelled with UNICEF late last April to conduct financial literacy and personal hygiene workshops with students at two elementary schools in Sorong, West Papua, where they engaged with the students and teachers who benefit from the child-friendly school programme. The team also visited community-based early childhood development centres in Raja Ampat, West Papua. Coverage in local media was strong, follow the links below for more details on this successful trip.



Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Stopping Rubella in Its Tracks

By Dinda Veskarahmi, Fundraising Communication Officer

Aris (7) at school after recovering from Rubella

Central Java: Aris had just gotten home from school when the fever hit. His mother, a local health volunteer, did what she could, giving him medicine and applying a cold compress to his forehead, but to no avail; the 38°C fever would not relent.

The next morning, Aris was taken to a nearby health centre in Klaten, Central Java, where his blood was drawn and sent to a nearby city for tests. The results came back several days later: Aris had tested positive for Rubella.

His mother, Diah, was extremely worried; she had heard the virus was contagious and could cause cataracts or loss of hearing. But fortunately for Aris, Rubella is usually a mild disease for children. It is babies in the womb that face the greatest danger.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Pushing Haze Safety for Indonesian Kids

By: Vania Santoso – Innovations Adolescent and Youth Engagement Officer

Students walk along a street as they are released from school to return home earlier due to the haze in Jambi, Indonesia’s Jambi province © Antara Foto/Wahdi Setiawan/Reuters/29 September 2015

Palangkaraya: “Haze made me feel like I don’t want to be here anymore, ever!” said Gibran, a fourth-grader from Palangkaraya, East Kalimantan.

It wasn’t easy to listen to Gibran recount life during the 2015 haze in his corner of Indonesian Borneo, a weekslong event some have called the 21st century’s worst environmental disaster. In his village, the haze got so bad he and his family couldn’t stay. They were evacuated hundreds of kilometres away to Java, where they stayed for some two months with his grandmother.

Helping Jasmine

By: Felice Bakker, JPO, Child Protection

As part of UNICEF Indonesia’s approach to modelling scalable interventions, I am documenting good birth registration practices at our nine pilot sites across Indonesia.  On this occasion, I was able to meet with a family who benefited from UNICEF’s pilot in Makassar, where partnerships are facilitated with local NGO’s to register vulnerable children, including those with disabilities.

Jasmine (left) poses with the author (center), her two children and friend Irma at home in Makassar
Makassar: Jasmine* is quadriplegic. So are her two youngest children. Her three-year-old daughter Nur needs to be carried, while her five-year-old son Ali has to walk on all fours.

During antenatal visits to hospitals in years past, doctors told Jasmine that a disabled mother couldn’t possibly raise children the right way, advising her to use contraceptives to avoid future pregnancies. Needless to say, Jasmine disagreed.

To learn more about Jasmine’s life as a mother with disability and the challenges she faces, a colleague and I visited her at her home in Makassar, South Sulawesi. She greeted us warmly at the door, inviting us inside to meet her three children, whose laughter could already be heard from the street.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Empowering midwives with INFOBIDAN

By Cory Rogers, Communication Officer

Two midwives demonstrate how to access the information held on the INFOBIDAN website. © Cory Rogers / UNICEF / 2017

East Java: “With INFOBIDAN, we have the proof at our fingertips!” hollers Sri Utami, a village-based midwife in eastern Java, just making herself heard above the noise.

Steps away, seven women lead a boisterous chant – “INFOBIDAN, yes! INFOBIDAN yes!” – hoping to have already convinced the 100 midwives who have gathered to sign up for the new mobile application.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

#IniSuaraku: What Young People Think about Access to Reproductive Care

By Vania Santoso, Youth Engagement Officer

Young people got busy on their mobile phones to voice their opinions during the Adolescent Summit © UNICEFIndonesia/2017/Achmad Rifai

Yogyakarta: Each year, 1 June marks the Global Day of Parents, a day emphasizing the critical role of parents in the rearing of children. Children need to be nurtured and protected; no child should be a parent.

Thinking about this made me recall my experience at the National Adolescent Summit in Yogyakarta in March 2017 which aimed to address the issue of unplanned teen pregnancy.  

Some 70 young people, selected from 25 of Indonesia's 34 provinces, engaged in intense discussions on adolescent reproductive health access with representatives from the Government of Indonesia, UN agencies and NGOs. 

Naturally, in the "Twitter Capital of the World", debates spilled over onto social media. It was amazing to see young people boldly voicing their opinions and taking a stand on these sensitive issues, both online and offline. 

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Sweden's Queen Silvia puts Indonesian children front and centre

By Cory Rogers, Communication Officer

Sweden’s Queen Silvia accepts a “Dream Map” describing the aspirations of nine youngsters during her state visit to Indonesia on May 24th, 2017.
© Cory Rogers/UNICEF / 2017.

Jakarta: “I want to be the first Indonesian to touch the moon!” proclaimed Ikhsan, a fifth-grade boy from the crowded neighbourhood of Manggarai, South Jakarta.

Sitting nearby, Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden must have seemed an unlikely visitor to this urban slum, where children often lack the residency papers to attend primary school, let alone pursue a degree in something like astrophysics.

“I want to become an astronaut!” Ikhsan continued, peppering his Bahasa Indonesian with a healthy dose of English. “But here, not many children even know what astronomy is.”

How might the Queen help kids like him realize such a dream? he wondered. And what might Indonesia be able to do?

The Cold Chain Guru of NTT

By Ermi Ndoen, EPI Officer

Ariel gives a presentation at a UNICEF-supported cold chain workshop and training in NTT province ©Ermi Ndoen/UNICEF/2017
Ende: It’s just a normal day in the life of Johanis Rihi Leo, known as “Ariel,” who always has somewhere to be.  

“I’ve got to go fix three cold chain refrigerators right away,” said Ariel, before rushing off from Ende in Flores to Kefamenanu in Timor Tengah (TTU) District, a hilly district on the eastern island of Timor hundreds of kilometers away.
Ariel oversees cold chain integrity for the East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) Provincial Health Agency, ensuring vaccines headed for local health centres stay cold from point of manufacture to point of use – no mean feat in a tropical country where high temperatures make constant refrigeration costly.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Menstruation matters for boys as well as girls

By: Liz Pick, Communication Specialist

The cover of the What is Menstruation? comic book for boys ©UNICEF Indonesia/2016/Tongeng

On 28 May, people around the world will mark Menstrual Hygiene Day calling for greater awareness about the fundamental role that good menstrual hygiene management (MHM) plays in enabling women and girls to reach their full potential. 

UNICEF Indonesia is joining the global voices to encourage education about menstruation to be extended to boys as well as girls. Some might ask: ‘But menstruation happens to girls, why do boys also need to know about it?’