Elementary schoolchildren in Indonesia risked injury or worse crossing a collapsed bridge in the rain yesterday. Climbing across a 162-metre cable still dangling over the Ciberang River, some of the children were adamant about attending school in the village of Sanghiang Tanjung on time.
Flooding in the region has already led to the collapse of three bridges in Indonesia.
This suspension bridge is the only direct transportation route between the children’s home village and their school. It was damaged when flooding struck the Lebak district. There is, however, a five-kilometer detour through Ciwaru and Sabagi.
Some of the children crossed calmly while others cried out, screams punctuating the trek now and then.
Concerned parents and residents of the region have reportedly asked authorities to repair the bridge, damaged five days ago, but no action has been taken as of yet.
The journey was particularly perilous because many children Indonesia don’t know how to swim. In parts of Southeast Asia and the Pacific region, drowning is the leading cause of accidental child deaths. In Indonesia, about 3,000 children down annually, says the Bali Sports Foundation.
The Foundation’s Swim4Kids is a program that provides swimming and water safety lessons for disadvantaged Indonesian children.
The Alliance for Safe Children (TASC) also works to end preventable child deaths in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. The organization is part of the SwimSafe initiative, which has worked to examine how child drowning in low and middle-income countries is different from recreation-associated drowning in high-income countries, among other goals.
TASC says that 95 per cent of childhood drowning cases occur on the continent, home to two-thirds of the world’s children.
“The child drowning epidemic has been invisible,” Michael Linnan, the organization’s Technical Director, told the IRIN last spring. “It is the biggest killer that no one has heard of.”
In their 2008 World Report on Child Injury Prevention, the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) further found that, while drowning is the leading cause of injury and death among very young children in both the US and Asia, the child mortality rate from drowning is 30 times higher in Asia.