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Supporting families in crisis as COVID-19 surges amongst Indonesia’s children

By Opportunity International Australia

Child death rates in Indonesia continue to grow due to COVID-19 - with one in eight youth affected by the country’s worst outbreak so far, according to the Indonesian Pediatric Society.

COVID-19 death rates in Indonesian children are among the highest in the world. In late July, the Indonesian Pediatric Society reported more than 360,000 confirmed cases in children, with more than a 100 dying each week. Many of them are younger than five.

Children with disabilities are most at risk from COVID-19, as those infected have a higher mortality rate and are more susceptible at catching the virus.

Vulnerable families have been most impacted in this pandemic as they can’t access proper medical care when infected with the virus, and local hospitals are stretched to capacity. They are then isolating in small, often crowded homes.

“We’re deeply concerned about the devastating toll COVID-19 is having on children and vulnerable communities, including its spread to remote areas like West Sumatra and East Nusa Tenggara with extremely limited healthcare,” Simon Lynch, Opportunity International Australia’s Indonesia Program Director says.

An adult is vaccinated in Indonesia
Photo credit: Mufid Majnun

Swift action needed to vaccinate children with disabilities

Since early July, Opportunity and YCAB have vaccinated 9,206 children and 150 children with disabilities, through its drive-through vaccination centre in West Jakarta, following the sharp spike in cases across the country. They’re also immunising the elderly and people experiencing homelessness, as well as providing oxygen to hospitals that have run out.

Over the coming month, we’re vaccinating 1,000 Indonesian children, many of whom have a disability, in YCAB’s clinic to curb the spread of COVID-19,” Simon says.

“As mobility is one of the biggest obstacles for children with disabilities, especially the marginalised, we’re transporting them and their carers via bus to and from the vaccination facility, where all immunisations will be done privately.

Immunising children with disabilities and the most vulnerable are incredibly important, as they need the most protection from this horrific virus because they’re high-risk categories who don’t have equal access to healthcare or support.”

An adult man is vaccinated in IndonesiaA young man receives a vaccination in Banyumas, Indonesia. Photo credit: Mufid Majnun

Protecting vulnerable communities

There have been many challenges to the national vaccination rollout, with more than eleven per cent of the population currently vaccinated due to limited supply and impact of the virus on healthcare workers.

Indonesia has a long way to go before fully immunising its 270-million people, the world’s fourth most populous nation

“Our drive-through vaccination facility will help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and assist the government to inoculate the population to reach herd immunity before another outbreak,” Simon adds.

While reported COVID-19 cases are declining in Jakarta, the government of Indonesia is reporting that they are surging in remote areas.

Overall, more than 130,000 Indonesians have died from COVID-19. There have been over four million confirmed cases, as of 27 August 2021.

The number of new infections has continued to slowly decline and is now at 14,193 per day. The Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation are still reporting that the real number of new cases remains over 300,00 but is decreasing.

“Our partners have been significantly impacted and jointly, 514 staff have been infected with COVID-19, and our friends at local microfinance institution, MBK, who participated in our health training, had 400 staff with the virus. In many areas, our partners are having to meet with group leaders as it’s unsafe to bring the groups together,” Simon said.

How Opportunity is supporting vulnerable families

  • We’re facilitating emergency loans, mass vaccinations and spreading COVID-19 awareness.
  • Our COVID-19 prevention training is underway with our Indonesian partners and local microfinance institution MBK, which’ll jointly reach over 2.5 million families and have a significant impact.
  • Over 4,000 field workers have been quickly assessing families’ needs and disseminating vital information, resources, and food kits.
  • Vulnerable people are being linked with crucial vaccination, social protection and welfare schemes or government support programs.
  • Our partner TLM assisted 10,000 clients to access energy subsidies.
  • Health education materials are being distributed through SMS, WhatsApp, and posters to vulnerable communities.
  • Opportunity is educating microfinance partners on COVID-19 safe practices.

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