Indonesia: Health, education and sanitation improve post-tsunami

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Post-tsunami improvements in Indonesia

By Rob McBride

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia, December 2009 - The distinctive voices of Misrina and Bunga can be heard singing above the din of other young children at the Psyandu Plus Centre. Now approaching their fifth birthdays, both were born within a few weeks of the tsunami. Misrina was delivered by a Russian doctor in a hospital tent.

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Posyandu Plus is an integrated health and early childhood development centre. It is one of many built with support from UNICEF in the tsunami-affected areas of Indonesia. Health workers monitor growth and nutrition, administer vaccinations, and provide ante-natal care.

Supporting mothers

For Ainul Mardiah, the centre has proved vital. Born without arms, Ms. Mardiah overcame a severe disability. With the centre's help, she was able to give birth to Zaidah - now a healthy and active 18-month-old baby girl.

"Before this place was built, I wouldn't have been able to have a baby," explains Ms. Mardiah.

'Building back better'

Additional projects are underway using the 'build back better' approach, including a major sewage treatment plant at Jawa on the outskirts of Aceh. Much work is being done at schools throughout the area to improve water supply and sanitation. The schools being built today will be healthier than those destroyed by the Tsunami.

At the Mata Ie Elementary School, contractors working in partnership with UNICEF are finishing a bore-well to solve its shortage of fresh water. UNICEF Drilling Consultant, Teuku Reza, oversees the work in the area.

"They never got fresh water, that's why we're involved," explains Mr. Reza. He adds that the new water supply will enable the children to learn good personal hygiene.

For the children born since the tsunami, these improvements will lead to a healthier community, and a better start in life.