Mercy Corps leads project in Jakarta's slums
Portland-based Mercy Corps is at work in Jakarta's slums, where problems with sanitation and water stand in stark contrast to the image of Indonesia as an increasingly prosperous society.
Seattle Times business reporter
JAKARTA, Indonesia — In Kalideres, a slum on the western edge of Indonesia's capital, the story of water is either too much or not enough.
During the rainy season, flooding causes sewage to overflow from gutters and seep into streets and homes.
But for daily living, the lack of safe drinking water means residents must buy it in large plastic jugs for about 33 cents a day.
Most people in this neighborhood live on less than $2 per day.
A group of small children follows Sean Granville-Ross, Indonesia country director for the Portland-based aid agency Mercy Corps, as he weaves his way through narrow passageways between brick buildings with tin roofs.
Asked whether they swim in the brackish water of a nearby canal, the children say no.
Still, skin diseases are common and diarrhea rates are 18 percent higher in Kalideres than the rest of the country.
For many Indonesian mothers, baby formula is seen as a nutritious choice, said Sylvia Ross, Mercy Corps communications officer.
"Nobody tells them you probably shouldn't mix it with sewer water," Ross said.
Constant water woes and problems with sanitation and disease offer a stark contrast to the image of Indonesia as an increasingly prosperous society.
In fact, 13 percent of the population, or 31 million people, live under the poverty line.
Jakarta's dense urban environment and decaying infrastructure complicate the problem of hygiene and sanitation.
In Kalideres, three to six people live in a house of less than 300 square feet.
Without room for a shared sanitation system, a pilot project is under way to build small septic systems within each house.
Mercy Corps is leading the pilot project, part of an effort to improve the environment through community-based management of waste, water and sanitation in the slum areas.
In this case, the cost of the house-based septic system is shared by the nonprofit and the household, which contributes up to 10 percent.
Granville-Ross said he hopes the project can demonstrate economic benefits of environmentally sound practices.
The pilot project has been funded by charities, but microloans for residents could finance construction in the future, he said.
The first system was finished early in summer, giving residents their first functioning toilet.
If it can help reduce waterborne diseases, it will also cut down the time parents spend at home taking care of sick kids.
Kristi Heim: 206-464-2718 or email@example.com
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