‘Lack of global solidarity’, slow vaccination rates put Indonesia in the crosshairs of COVID |


UN News asked Resident Coordinator, Valerie JulliandAbout the situation in the country and what the rest of the world can learn from Indonesia’s experience.

What is the current situation in Indonesia?

Valerie Juliand, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Indonesia.

Indonesian National University

Valerie Juliand, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Indonesia. Indonesian National University

Indonesia, like many countries in Southeast Asia, has until recently been successful in mitigating the worst health effects COVID-19; It has long been a form of physical distancing measures.

Since I took office here in October 2020, I have only met most of my colleagues on screen and have completely avoided Jakarta’s notorious traffic jams. However, the unhealthy effects of the pandemic are stark.

Indonesia has made remarkable progress in alleviating poverty over the past decade, but COVID-19 has reversed some of these vital gains. As elsewhere, the economic burden of COVID-19 has fallen disproportionately on women and other marginalized groups.

But since May, the health crisis has become increasingly urgent. New cases of COVID-19 have risen fivefold over the past month.

On July 17, Indonesia reported more new daily infections than both India and Brazil, causing many news outlets to describe it as the new COVID epicenter in Asia. And on July 21, the United Nations The World Health Organization (WHO) said There have been more than 77,500 deaths in the country.

Indonesia’s total confirmed cases of around 3 million is still far lower than the more than 31 million cases recorded in India since the start of the pandemic.

But comparisons have inevitably been drawn with the disastrous spring wave in India. In some areas, overwhelmed hospitals have had to turn away patients, and volunteer groups have mobilized to locate oxygen tanks and build coffins.

How did things get so bad so quickly?

A man reads COVID-19 prevention information in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Asian Development Bank / Afridi Hakamal

A man reads COVID-19 prevention information in Jakarta, Indonesia. , by the Asian Development Bank / Afridi Hakamal

This is due to several factors. The increase was driven by a highly transmissible delta variant and we are also seeing rising case numbers across the region and in many other countries. But on a deeper level, there has been no sense of collective wisdom during the pandemic.

The same mistakes that occurred in one country were repeated in another. Global experience has demonstrated that strict enforcement of public health measures is critical to contain an outbreak, and that such measures must be guided by close monitoring of virus transmission. It did not happen in India. What we see here in Indonesia is also the result of mass gatherings and travel when the infection rate was still high.

Moreover, vaccinations have not been rolled out fast enough. As of July 17, six out of 100 people in Indonesia’s population of 270 million had received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, with low coverage among the elderly and other vulnerable groups.

Indonesia has had a relatively good supply of vaccines, including from COVAX . facility—Supported by organizations such as Who is the And UNICEFIt is ahead of other countries in the region.

But there has been a global lack of solidarity despite calls by the UN Secretary-General for equitable access to a vaccine.

Rich countries stockpiled vaccines. As sad as it is, Indonesia is certainly not the worst; Only 1.1 percent of people in low-income countries received at least one dose of vaccination.

Is the Indonesia outbreak at its peak or could things go wrong?

Volunteers prepare to disinfect public places in Jakarta, Indonesia, in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  (a file)

Asian Development Bank / Afridi Hakamal

Volunteers prepare to disinfect public places in Jakarta, Indonesia, in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (a file)

It is an alarming situation. After India implemented a nationwide lockdown in response to the pandemic, it took nearly two weeks before we saw a drop in the number of cases.

Indonesia imposed strict movement restrictions in Java and Bali at the beginning of July, and has since expanded those restrictions, but has yet to implement strict movement restrictions or a nationwide lockdown, as other countries in a similar situation have done. It’s hard to say when we’ll peak, but the numbers are still going up.

The government of Indonesia has committed to vaccinating one million people per day. It is also converting 40 percent of hospital beds that are not infected with coronavirus into COVID beds. Among other interventions, the government will distribute medical support packages to some of the poorest people in the country, so that those with milder symptoms do not have to go to hospital.

These measures are all important. But experiences in other countries prove that complete restrictions on movement, vaccination, contact tracing/testing and treatment are the best ways to contain the virus.

How is the UN supporting Indonesia’s response to COVID-19?

On the health side, the United Nations provides technical and practical support. The UN focuses a lot on prevention, so we are helping to test capabilities, both in terms of equipment, protocols and training.

We have facilitated the arrival of 16.2 million vaccine doses through the COVAX facility to date and are helping to spread them, because cold chain logistics are complex across an archipelago of 17,000 islands.

We also put a great deal of energy into communications, including health protocols and vaccines, and combating misinformation and scams.

The first COVID-19 vaccines provided under the COVAX facility arrived in Indonesia in March 2021.

Then there is the work we do to support people affected by COVID-19 outside of the health field. This includes ensuring that advice is given on the economic effects of the pandemic.

Several UN agencies work with residents who are among the poorest in Indonesia. For example, we worked on a social protection package, an adaptive disaster response version, offered by the government, including ensuring that people in remote areas had access to the program.

UN Women working to raise awareness that the economic and social burden of COVID-19 has fallen disproportionately on women, who run about two-thirds of registered MSMEs in Indonesia; as well as responding to the increase in gender-based violence that has coincided with lockdowns in Indonesia and elsewhere in the world.

International Organization for Migration And UNHCR It works with local governments to ensure that refugees are included in local immunization programmes.

UNICEF supports national efforts to address the immediate and long-term effects of COVID-19 on children, such as ensuring continued learning, supporting social protection, and addressing child protection concerns and vulnerabilities.

What lessons can be learned globally from what is happening in Indonesia?

The COVID-19 vaccine is given in Kediri, East Java, Indonesia.

© UNICEF / COVAX / Fauzan Ijazah

The COVID-19 vaccine is given in Kediri, East Java, Indonesia.

There are some issues that can be contained in a country. But when it comes to viruses, they do not recognize borders and do not differentiate between rich and poor countries.

If we make a little cocoon in which we feel safe but outside that cocoon it’s chaos, we won’t be safe for long.

To me, this pandemic illustrates what environmentalists have been arguing for decades: what we do in one country affects what happens in another because we share one ecosystem, one planet.

There is not a single environmental expert who has been able to convince governments of the need to reduce air travel. Post COVID-19 Global Aviation!

The pandemic has forced us to work together, to limit ourselves, and to change the way we live in ways unimaginable only until recently. But when it comes to vaccines, although the COVAX facility is doing well, global solidarity has sometimes been lacking. I think that’s one of the reasons why we see a situation like the one in Indonesia.

It sounds like a UN cliché to say we are all in this together. But it’s very clear with COVID-19. The pandemic has taught us that it is possible to make unprecedented changes in the way we live. The question is, will we apply the lessons we paid so dearly to learn?

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