Of the four leading causes of death for children younger than 5 in Indonesia, two of them—typhoid and diarrhea—are caused directly by the country’s inadequate sanitation and water supply infrastructure. This crucial need for adequate safe water supplies and sanitation systems, especially for people in poor and rural regions, was the driving force behind the Tanoto Foundation’s recent efforts to bring clean water pipelines and improved sanitation to Indonesian schools through its Healthy School Program.
The Healthy School Program has partnered with 10 underserved schools in Jambi Province on the island of Sumatra to install new toilets, septic tanks, and hand-washing facilities. The foundation also distributed two dozen sanitation kits and more than 1,500 personal hygiene kits at eight other local schools, in coordination with local health authorities. The Tanoto Foundation has worked in Jambi, Riau, and North Sumatra Provinces to provide this kind of health-related assistance on a regular basis.
Throughout Indonesia, the government has made notable improvements in sanitation infrastructure over the past three decades. Yet significant gaps remain, in part due to the country’s economic crisis of the late 1990s, when little in the way of new infrastructure projects could be undertaken. Since that time, the government has lacked the means to provide upkeep for pre-existing water supply systems. To date, only about half of the country’s urban-dwelling citizens have regular access to clean water supplies and basic sanitation systems.
Poor families are disproportionately affected by the problem. One family can expect to pay hundreds of dollars just to connect their home with a utility company for the first time—a sum that many simply cannot scrape together. In addition, women in poor Indonesian families typically spend a large part of their day drawing and transporting water from rivers or community reservoirs, then dividing it among the family’s multiple sanitation needs. This chore can become back-breaking labor.
Through the efforts of the Tanoto Foundation, life is improving for many in the rapidly developing country. A project of self-made entrepreneur Sukanto Tanoto and his wife, the foundation focuses a large part of its work on building up Indonesia’s social welfare infrastructure and improving its education systems.