Made Arya Kencana
Nusa Dua, Bali. The gap between urban and rural areas has left nearly half of Indonesia’s 240 million people without proper access to sanitation and clean water, Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi said on Monday.
In her opening speech at the Third East Asia Ministerial Conference on Sanitation and Hygiene, Nafsiah said about 55 percent of Indonesians do not have access to sanitation, while 43 percent don’t have access to clean water.
She added that the number of people without either was 109 million.
“The disparity between access to sanitation and clean water in cities and in villages means that we are still far from achieving our accessibility targets,” the minister said.
She said 76 percent of urban residents had access to sanitation and clean water, compared to 47 percent of rural residents, who account for the majority of the country’s population.
The government wants to ensure access to sanitation by 62 percent of the population by 2015. Similarly, it wants to increase access to clean water to 68 percent by the same deadline.
Nafsiah said that under the government’s health development program, Indonesia would need Rp 56 trillion ($5.9 billion) in funding through 2020 to build the infrastructure for both, and improve access.
Health experts at the conference stressed the need for improved sanitation, particularly in preventing waterborne diseases that fuel childhood mortality rates.
Athula Kahandaliyanage, director of sustainable development at the World Health Organization’s regional office for Southeast Asia, pointed out that diarrheal diseases are the second-leading cause of death in children under five and are responsible for killing 1.5 million children every year throughout the world.
“In East Asia, about 450 million cases of diarrhea occur each year and the number of deaths attributed to diarrhea amounts to almost 150,000,” he told the conference.
“These diseases not only threaten lives but also keep children from school and adults from work thereby perpetuating the cycle of poverty.
“Almost 700 million people in East Asia lack access to improved sanitation facilities, and nearly 100 million of those practice open defecation.”
Angela Kearney, the Unicef representative to Indonesia, highlighted two critical areas that need urgent attention.
“First, we need to address the significant inequities in sanitation and water coverage. The poorest and the most disadvantaged among us still do not have access to water and sanitation that will help them live strong and productive lives,” she said.
“Additionally, we need to put and end, once and for all, to open defecation.”