Indonesia has most COVID cases in Southeast Asia . . .
Indonesia reported 1,031 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, pushing the country to the top of the Southeast Asian chart for cumulative cases, with 41,431 that day. The total case count rose to 43,803 today. This week the country has been reporting over 60 daily COVID-related deaths, pushing the death toll to 2,339. Indonesia has seen nearly 900 cases per day since June and is still battling the ‘first wave.’ At the same time, Jakarta is trying to re-open its struggling economy. Indonesia’s recent challenges point to the difficulty facing countries around the world today: balancing the economy with the health of its citizens.
Diverse understanding of health and recovery . . .
Indonesia is home to between 50 and 70 million Indigenous peoples that speak more than 250 tribal languages, according to Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara (AMAN), or the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago. Many of these groups have been self-isolating and implementing their own COVID-containment strategies, reflective of their diverse understanding of health and tensions with the government over who has authority to issue travel bans. But doing so has come with economic and health consequences. Many people within these groups rely on daily wages, and either do not have access to national health facilities or are served by few and distant COVID referral hospitals. AMAN has been working to fill the void with a mobile app that aims to track COVID cases, food availability, and available medicines and medical personnel among 2,400 communities. But significant challenges remain given the lack of mobile devices and internet connectivity, low literacy rates, and vast distances between communities.
Every country has a ‘Fourth World’ . . .
Indonesia’s Indigenous peoples face further challenges in addition to COVID-19. The Indonesian government announced in May a new law that expands the types of lands that the state can unilaterally acquire, including Indigenous villages and forests. The law aims to support the government’s planned 89 infrastructure projects worth C$135 billion, which it sees as helping to jumpstart the economy. A look at Indonesia is a good reminder that some sections of society, no matter how homogeneous, inclusive, or diverse, are at risk of being left behind or sidelined in both COVID containment measures and economic recovery strategies. With Canada aiming to re-open post-COVID, we should be considering and working with the country’s own ‘Fourth World.’