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Better Drinking Water Access for Children’s Better Future

Human needs clean water to live. Polluted water is not only dirty and not suitable for consumption, but can also be harmful and even cause death. To improve the quality of life of the community and fulfill the basic rights of all the people, provision of guaranteed access to drinking water needs to be seriously considered as one of the national development priorities. Limited access to water can rob children of education and economic opportunities and prevent them from getting out of poverty. Due to distant access of water from home, children in remote areas often get the task to obtain water for their families too. This responsibility will take up their time which should be used for learning and playing. Safe and accessible water access will give them extra time so they can play like children in general and use the time to study for their future.

Infrastructure development is one of priorities in President Joko Widodo’s administration. Mr. President emphasized on various occasions how important infrastructure is for the progress of a nation, including as a basic foundation in economic growth and increasing the independence of a country. This also applies to the construction and development of drinking water infrastructure or commonly referred to as the Sistem Penyediaan Air Minum (Drinking Water Supply System) or SPAM.

Another challenge beside the lack of SPAM providers in rural areas is that the infrastructure used to distribute water in Indonesia is usually outdated, poorly maintained and prone to leakage. If the distribution system is damaged, water could be contaminated with waterborne disease organisms. The rapid rate of population growth also resulted in a gap between population and service coverage. Lack of local experts is often a barrier to creating more modern water treatment distribution system as well, which requires trained personnel for operations and maintenance.

Based on the performance appraisal conducted by the Agency for the Improvement of the Implementation of Drinking Water Supply Systems (BPPSPAM) towards 371 Regional Drinking Water Companies (PDAM) in 2016, they found that the number of PDAM in healthy condition was 198 (53%), 108 in unwell condition (29%), and 65 ailing (18% ) This condition is different from 2015, where 368 PDAMs were assessed and resulted in 196 (53%) PDAM in healthy condition, 100 unwell (27%), and 72 (20%) ailing. Whereas in 2014, of the 359 PDAM assessed, 182 (51%) were in healthy condition, 103 unwell (29%), and 74 (21%) ailing (BAPPENAS 2017). It can be concluded that from 2014 to 2016, the number of healthy PDAM increased only slightly, the number of unwell PDAM increased and the number of ailing PDAM decreased slightly. Another challenge for SPAM in Indonesia is that there are still many improvements needed from the government to maintain SPAM.

In accordance with Law No. 23 Year 2014 concerning Regional Government, drinking water supply is one of the main responsibility of regional government in regards of providing basic compulsory services. Along with the government development program, the funding aspect for the development of SPAM must also be the commitment and concern of the regional government. Nevertheless with limited local government funding and other development priorities, the central government also supports the development of SPAM in local regions through APBN, hence the SPAM infrastructure development gets joint funding from the regional government and the central government.

In addition to the APBN and APBD, the government also opens opportunities for business entities to support the development of SPAM through the mechanism of Public Private Partnership (PPP) listed in Government Regulation No. 122 Year 2015 concerning Drinking Water Supply Systems. The advantages of the PPP scheme include providing other financing alternatives due to limited government funding, more efficiency, getting new technology used by the private sector, and accelerating the increase of coverage and quality of public services. PPP scheme is expected to optimize investment costs, especially in urban areas where population growth is increasing rapidly. The ability of people in cities to pay which tends to be bigger is a strong reason for investors to invest, but what about people in remote areas who cannot afford it? The lack of conducive business climate has caused the private sector to be reluctant to develop SPAM in rural areas. As a result, the piping network and drinking water supply for the rural poor have received little attention from the government or the private sector.

One of the efforts to develop SPAM in Indonesia can be started from schools by providing drinking water installations to build habits and increase awareness to children, teachers, parents, and people around the school environment. The water filter system guarantees the cleanliness of water so it minimizes potential disease due to contaminated water. Children will also be able to set aside a portion of their pocket money to buy other necessities other than drinking water. This system is also easy to learn so that anyone can operate and maintain it. Application of Drinking Water Programs in schools can offer drinking water supply options to assist the government in both urban and remote areas, especially for children. With a good and affordable drinking water supply system, children will have the opportunity to develop their potential because they have more time to learn and play, so the hope of having a brighter future is greater as well.

Investment in Health and Nutrients is Investment in Education

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“Education is an important instrument of peace and development.”

Education has always been the key role in the development of human race and civilization, through the refinement of collective ideas that is learned and relearned through education. Advancement of economic and social progress has always been ascribed to the abundant stock of knowledge that nations have. To ensure that progress is kept going, education is important to be developed and improved.

The first Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) Conference of Education Ministers that was attended by education ministers from the member states of Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) reiterated the importance of education. Dr. Abdulaziz Othman Altwajiri on his opening address of ISESCO Conference of Education Ministers on 27 October 2016 in Tunis, Tunisia stressed that education is an important instrument of peace and development. ISESCO is just one of the organization that stresses the urgency of developing and improving education.

Off the many strategies to develop education, there is one way that might not cross our minds before, which is quality meals for children at school age. Children, being at their critical age of their growth need quality meals that packed off with good nutrients so that their growth will not be hindered. Especially with the robust activities that children are involved, through play or learn, high quality meals are urgent.

In Indonesia, children are rather prone to double burden nutrients problem, nutrient deprived or nutrient excess. Basic Health Research (Riskesdas) conducted in 2010 found that among 6-12 years old children, 4.6% are categorized very thin, 7.6% thin, 78.6% normal, and 9.2% overweight. Stunting growth are also found in children, with 15.1% are categorized as very short while 20% are short. These statistics should be worrying as not just the health of Indonesian children are concerned, but also concerning their education.

Investment in quality meals is an investment in education for schoolchildren. Because if children are not healthy and deprived of good nutrients, then schools cannot function efficiently as a place of learning. Children need quality meals with good nutrients in order to develop well and perform better in learning. Problems with health and good nutrients can hinder learning process.

World Food Programme (WFP) acknowledged the importance of quality meals for children, and linked it with the improvement of education. WFP proposed the program of school feeding, where in schools children are provided with quality meals. WFP listed at least five Power of School feeding. School feeding will improve the nutrients for children that will be helpful for their health, learning, and morbidity. School feeding will also keep children in schools, and also help those who are vulnerable to leaving schools such as girls and children with disabilities. School feeding also acts as a value transfer of healthy lifestyle and diet. School feeding can be a platform for wider socio-economic benefits.

Thus investment in health and nutrients in schools is urgent in Indonesia. Several steps have been taken but needed to reinvigorated, steps that can be taken not just by governments, but by schools, non governmental organization, parents, or anyone. School feeding as World Food Programme has done and campaigned for is one of the steps. Another step is Usaha Kesehatan Sekolah program that was made in collaboration by four ministries in Indonesia.

First step for providing quality foods to schoolchildren is to provide them with quality drinking water and proper sanitation in school. Project Child has created a participatory project and has installed drinking water filters at 24 schools around Yogyakarta to make safe and affordable drinking water available for over 3000 primary school students. Half of these schools are located in the region of Pacitan, a small Town near the coast of Jawa. These schools even have to deal with harder conditions because the drinking water is often contaminated and the structures for a reliable water access are not available. The first step Project Child took after they came up with the idea for the DWP (Drinking Water Program) was to do the necessary research in conjunction with the University of Pforzheim to gather information on the availability of drinking water and the current drinking water system in Indonesia. The cooperation will be continuing throughout the year to measure the project impact.

To create a sustainable program Project Child came up with the idea to create the first “drinking water committee”. At every school two teachers, two parents and one member of project child form this committee. They give their input from the start of the drinking water filter installation and are responsible for the project throughout its process. This helps to adjust the program at every school to fit the local and individual requirements regarding the sourcing of water and the collection of payments. Further this grants Project Child the possibility to start an educational program at the schools, which includes topics regarding environmental causes.

You can help by donating for the installation of the drinking water filter to make it available to more schools.

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