Improved health care in Banda Aceh ensures that
children have the best possible start in life
During a visit to a UNICEF-supported health
centre one can’t help but notice Misrina and Bunga, two young girls
singing loudly to be heard above the noise of the other children waiting
to be seen. Now approaching their fifth birthdays, both girls were born
within a few months of the tsunami - Misrina was delivered by a Russian
doctor in a hospital tent.
"This is Misrina Huwaida," says Salliati, a care provider at the
centre. "She was born on 13 March, 2005. Her friend, Bunga Mafirah was
born on 15 April, 2005."
The centre attended by the two friends is known locally as a
'Posyandu Plus' - an integrated health and early child development
centre, one of many built with support from UNICEF in the tsunami
affected areas of Indonesia. While children are weighed and their height
measured in one part of the centre, others wait to receive
vaccinations. In a separate examination room, expectant mothers receive
ante-natal check-ups, and breastfeeding advice.
For Ainul Mariah, that help has proved vital. Born without arms, she
has overcome her severe disability to become mother to Zaidah, a healthy
and active 18-month old baby girl. While Ainul talks, Zaidah plays with
toys and happily draws with a paper and crayon on her mother's lap.
“Before this place was built I wouldn’t have been able to have a baby,"
"They never get
fresh water, that's why we’re involved"
Teuku Reza, UNICEF
Schools are healthier places for children than
The schools which this post-tsunami
generation of children will go on to attend will also be healthier
places than they were before. Much work has been done throughout the
area to improve the water supply and sanitation provision at schools.
At the Mata Ie Elementary School, contractors working in partnership
with UNICEF are just finishing the drilling of a well to solve a
shortage of fresh water, and are testing a cascade of clear water from a
hosepipe, to the obvious delight of the children playing in the
According to Teuku Reza, UNICEF WASH Officer, the children’s
excitement is understandable. “They never get fresh water, that's why
we’re involved," he says, adding that the new supply would enable the
children to learn and practice good personal hygiene.
UNICEF is also supporting initiatives in the wider
To improve hygiene and sanitation generally
in the community, UNICEF has been supporting many initiatives including a
new sewage treatment plant at Jawa on the outskirts of Aceh. This plant
is able to process waste and the treated water is clean enough to be
returned to nearby wetlands.
Looking a little further into the distance, one can just see the
ocean and is reminded of the tsunami which came with such devastating
force five years ago. For the children born since then, the range of
improvements means they will enjoy the best possible start in life.
Rob McBride is a correspondent for UNICEF