Thursday, 5 January 2017

Yogyakarta survey reveals challenges and opportunities for ensuring access to clean water and sanitation

 By Aidan Cronin, Chief of WASH, Mitsunori Odagiri, UNICEF WASH Officer, and Bheta Aryad, Social Policy Specialist, UNICEF Indonesia

Water quality sampling in Yogyakarta © UNICEF Indonesia / 2016/ Aidan Cronin

The Government of Indonesia has taken on a leading role in the South-East Asia region and globally in implementing the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). One example of this commitment are the Government’s efforts to harmonize its own Five Year Development Plan (RPJMN) agenda with SDG 6 on the universal availability of clean water and sanitation by 2030. The RPJMN 2015-2019 is even more ambitious and seeks to ensure that 100 per cent of Indonesia’s population has access to safe drinking water by the end of 2019.

There is a clear commitment to progress. But a lack of evidence is blocking the way.

To address the problem, the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the Planning Ministry BAPPENAS, carried out a Water Quality Survey in the province of Yogyakarta in September last year as part of the National Socio-Economic Survey (Susenas). It was the first time such surveys were combined.

The Water Quality Survey carried out in Yogyakarta aimed to create a detailed overview of water quality, sanitation and hygiene at the household level, and to provide a baseline estimate of Indonesia’s progress on SDG water and sanitation development targets. It also aimed to provide data on the quality of drinking water for the Government of Yogyakarta and relevant stakeholders.

Nearly 1,000 households were surveyed for the study by a BPS Yogyakarta team. Detailed water analysis, meanwhile, was conducted by the Ministry of Health’s Centre for Environmental Health Engineering and Control of Diseases (BBTKLPP), with the main focus on the detection of E.coli faecal contamination. 

The analysis concluded that 89 per cent of source water samples were contaminated with E.coli; this despite high levels of access to an “protected water source”. The finding suggests that even protected drinking water sources remain at high risk of faecal contamination.

Around 67.1 per cent of samples of household drinking water, measured at the point of consumption, were found to be contaminated with E. coli. While boiling water was able to reduce the level of contamination, it was not found to eliminate traces of the bacteria altogether.

These two figures are of course very worrying. High levels of faecal contamination in source and household drinking water were found to correlate with poverty, rurality and low education levels, highlighting an urgent need for targeted interventions for the most vulnerable. The proportion of households with access to safely managed drinking water and sanitation facilities, as per the definition of the SDGs, were estimated at 8.5 per cent and 45.5 per cent, respectively. 

The survey team had to master additional tasks including delivering an additional dedicated water quality questionnaire along with taking water samples from the source and at the point of consumption in the house and then delivering the samples to the laboratory within 4 to 6 hours.  All these efforts have contributed to making Indonesia one of the few countries committed to establishing a baseline understanding of water safety in the country. For this the Government deserves to be further commended.

The report, launched by the Minister of BAPPENAS, Bambang Brodjonegoro, the Head of BPS, Kecuk Suhariyanto and UNICEF Representative Gunilla Olsson, recommends that the study be replicated in other provinces, and advises local governments to implement routine water-quality testing. It also urges improved coordination between central and local levels of government to seize on the new opportunities for progress that have been identified.


UNICEF is proud to have been able to provide technical support for such an important endeavour, as safe water is a key contributor to public health, and particularly to children’s health.


We know that over 40 per cent of infant deaths, for example, are caused by two killers: diarrhoea and pneumonia. We also know that water, sanitation and hygiene -- especially handwashing with soap before eating and after using the toilet -- can drastically cut these numbers. Studies have shown that the improvement of the water quality can reduce diarrhoea incidence by up to 30 per cent.


It has also become clear that water, sanitation and hygiene plays a crucial role in reducing malnutrition. Indonesia has a severe stunting problem, with 37 per cent of all children under five being stunted or too short for their age, constraining cognitive development and productivity later in life. A recent UNICEF study showed that children whose families lacked safe drinking water and proper sanitation were at a heightened risk of stunting.


“During the MDG period (2000-2015), Indonesia successfully reduced the proportion of people lacking access to a safe water sources by more than half. That is an incredible accomplishment. Today, the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) have shifted the emphasis from the source to the safety of the water. Doing so offers a unique opportunity to move ahead, as no SDG will be considered met if it is not met for all, everywhere.


The water quality survey proves we know how to chart a way forward, even if the road ahead is long.


To see a short Youtube clip on the this work please go to

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