Indonesia has launched a nationwide campaign to improve access to sanitation and clean water.
According to the World Bank-administered Water and Sanitation Programme, about 100 million of Indonesia's 220 million people had no easily accessible, private and safe place to urinate and defecate in 2004, and a recent World Bank report said poor hygiene and sanitation cost the country US$6.3 billion in 2006 (2.3 percent of gross domestic product)
The 19 August report entitled Economic Impacts of Sanitation in Indonesia said in 2006, 39 percent of urban households and 23 percent of rural households got their drinking water from a source less than 10m from the nearest septic tank or other waste disposal site, where the risk of contamination is relatively high.
It also said that in 2006 the Jakarta Environmental Monitoring Agency estimated 80 percent of deep wells were contaminated with E. coli, a bacteria that can cause severe cramps and bloody diarrhoea.
10,000 villages could benefit
Under a programme called The National Strategy for Community-Based Total Sanitation, launched on 20 August 2008, the government aims to provide access to sanitation and introduce more effective water treatment methods in 10,000 villages by 2012.
"Last year we started a pilot project in 500 villages and so far the campaign has already reached 3,000 villages," said I Nyoman Kandun, the Health Ministry's director-general of communicable disease control.
"We want to promote better hygiene and the use of several water treatment options to prevent waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea," he told reporters on 20 August at the launch of the campaign.
Chlorination, filtration and solar disinfecting are more effective and cost less than boiling water for which gas or kerosene is needed, Kandun said.
More investment needed
Poor sanitation, including poor hygiene, causes at least 120 million disease episodes and 50,000 premature deaths annually, according to the World Bank report
"There is a need for greater investment in water and sanitation infrastructure and in promoting improved hygiene practices in Indonesia because of the impact on health and on the economy," said senior economist for the Water and Sanitation Programme and the author of the report, Guy Hutton.
Poor sanitation also contributes significantly to water pollution - adding to the cost of safe water for households, and reducing fish stocks in rivers and lakes, the report stated.
Most of the economic losses come from higher costs for health services and clean water resources. People also lose income from absenteeism from work due to poor health, it stated.
The dangers of poor sanitation have not sunk in in many communities. Siti, a slum-dweller who lives behind one of Jakarta's shiny officer towers and sells fruit juice, downplayed the effects of poor sanitation on her family's health.
"Even though my house is right by a small river filled with rubbish, my family and I seldom catch a serious disease," she said.
"I think people who live in lavish buildings are more prone to diseases, because they're not used to a dirty environment," she said, waving flies off her juicer.
Below average sanitation coverage
The Water and Sanitation Programme said at 55 percent in 2004, adequate sanitation coverage in Indonesia was below the regional average for southeast Asian countries of 67 percent.
Nationwide, sanitation coverage has increased by 9 percent since 1990, representing signi?cant progress towards the target of 73 percent set by the UN Millennium Development Goal (MDG).
However, at the current rate of delivering adequate sanitation and clean water, Indonesia will fall short of the MDG sanitation target by 10 percent - the equivalent of 25 million people.
Kandun said a 2007 survey conducted by the Health Ministry found that 99.20 percent of households in Indonesia boil water for drinking but due to a lack of clean containers, about 47.5 percent of water is still contaminated by bacteria.
Even water supplied by the state-owned tap water company, PDAM (Water Utility Rescue Programme), is only 73.8 percent bacteria-free, he said.
According to the Indonesia Sanitation Sector Development Programme [www.sanitasi.or.id], diarrhoea kills 100,000 Indonesian children every year.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions