Some facts about Indonesia
The Republic of Indonesia spreads for nearly 5,000 kilometres across the equator and consists of more than 17,508 islands. The country shares the island of Borneo with Malaysia and Brunei; it shares New Guinea with Papua New Guinea.
|Gardening - photo: S. Posingis|
Indonesia is the world's fourth most populous nation and has around 245.6 million inhabitants (July 2011 est.). The capital city of Jakarta is home to 9.1 million. It is an ethnically diverse country, where more than 659 languages are spoken.
A country struggling to reduce inequalities
Indonesia has seen many changes in recent decades, including, in 1998, the fall of President Suharto, who had been in office for 32 years. The consolidation of democracy remains a challenge in this big, fragmented state.
Indonesia has made some progress in reducing poverty, but many remain poor and vulnerable. About 38 per cent of people work in agriculture. Around 13 per cent are employed in industry and nearly half of the population in services (2010 est.). Indonesia's varied natural beauty and cultural diversity means that tourism is an important source of income and employment. The official unemployment rate is 7.1 per cent (2010 est.).
Over 13 per cent of the population lives under the nationally-defined poverty line. Poverty is mostly a rural phenomenon. The infrastructure in rural areas is in need of development - it is estimated that only 71 per cent have access to improved drinking water and just 36 per cent to improved sanitation facilities. Access to services such as health and education is also better for people who live in urban areas, than for those living in the countryside.
As a result of the lack of opportunities in rural areas, many are forced to move to cities in search of work - the cities of Surabaya, Bandung and Medan already have more than two million inhabitants each. The desperate conditions in the countryside make many vulnerable to the false promises of human traffickers: in spite of new laws and stricter penalties, trafficking of women and children for forced labour, prostitution and debt bondage continues to be reported.
Situation of the children in Indonesia
There are 74.4 million children under the age of 18. Despite recent improvements, many children continue to face hardships. Due to the economic situation of their families, some children have to leave school and go to work. It is estimated that around seven per cent of children between the ages of five and 14 are involved in child labour. Children work in all sectors, often under unfavourable conditions, and most do not attend school. Child domestic workers are often found in middle class households in urban areas. Other working children can be found begging, cleaning cars or selling merchandise on the streets.
|Motorcycle library - photo: B. Neeleman|
Although it is difficult to know exactly how many children are involved in prostitution, it is believed to mostly affect girls from poorer families or those who have run away from their families. The number of child marriages is relatively high with over one fifth of children being married early; this figure increases to 30 per cent in rural areas. Many of these marriages end in divorce. Girls who cannot return to their families of origin often turn to prostitution to make a living.
SOS Children's Villages in Indonesia
The people of Indonesia have suffered hardships due to natural disasters and political and economic changes. Conflicts in the late 1990s led to an increase in the number of refugees, in particular children who had lost parental care. SOS Children's Villages has responded to the growing needs by increasing its work in the country. Armed conflict in East Timor led SOS Desa Taruna Indonesia to set up an SOS Emergency Relief Programme in 1999. More than 100 refugees from an orphanage in the East Timorese capital, Dili, were taken to SOS Children's Village Flores, where they remained during the war. In December 2004, a tsunami ravaged the northern island of Sumatra. SOS Children's Villages provided immediate emergency relief measures to traumatized children and homeless families. This was followed by the construction of more than 500 private homes and community centres near Banda Aceh and Meulaboh. Generous donations and close cooperation with the local authorities finally made it possible for the organisation to set up three new SOS Children's Villages in Banda Aceh, Medan and Meulaboh.
Young children can be looked after in the SOS Kindergartens, older children in Lembang can attend the SOS Hermann Gmeiner school and young adults can live in special houses where they are supported by professionals. The SOS Social Centres provide health counselling and vital support to families in the community through the SOS Family Strengthening Programmes; working in collaboration with local agencies, they assist families with income generation, parental skills or legal support to allow them to stay together. When children can no longer stay with their families, they are cared for by their SOS mothers in one of the SOS families.