The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) researchers are currently undertaking a study to gauge the effects of climate-related natural disasters upon human health.
The BMKG’s head of climate change and air quality, Budi Suhardi, said over the weekend that the results from the study would become a map to help prepare for emergency responses.
Budi said the government lacked data on such information. “By mapping out areas with health vulnerabilities, we can better coordinate emergency responses needed to avoid climate-related health risks,” he said.
The BMKG aims to start the project in Bali, East Java, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), Lampung, South Kalimantan, South Sulawesi and West Nusa Tenggara (NTB).
One of the project researchers, Dede Tarmana of the BMKG’s climate change and air quality center, is now working with researchers at the Health Ministry and Central Statistics Agency (BPS) to prepare field work for the project, which is expected to begin in early 2013. The map is scheduled to be ready by the end of 2013.
Dede said the map would help deliver more effective emergency response in areas where it was most needed.
“We want health workers to use this map to deliver resources to areas most vulnerable to natural disasters,” Dede told The Jakarta Post.
To draw up the map, the BMKG team will use three variables: sensitivity or how a system naturally responds to climate impacts; climate exposure and the ability of local communities to adapt to climate
Some of the conditions that will be taken into account in deciding which areas are eligible to receive government projects include a vulnerability to vector-borne diseases, such as dengue and malaria.
“NTT is one province with a high number of malaria infections. With ongoing climate-related natural hazards, this region may show higher vulnerability to the disease unless it is anticipated well,” said Dede.
Many regions in the country are prone to natural disasters, including flooding and bush fires, which mean that their inhabitants are especially vulnerable to sanitation-related health hazards, including leptospirosis and diarrhea.
Health Ministry data from 2008 recorded a total 3,661 diarrhea outbreaks in 10 regencies with a fatality prevalence rate of 1.26 percent.
Unsanitary habits, such as the common practice of defecating in the open, have worsened the situation.
The Health Ministry’s director of environmental health, Wilfried H. Purba, said many people lacked awareness about sanitation.
“People die every year as a result of water-borne diseases, such as diarrhea,” he said.
Data from the Water and Sanitation Program-East Asia and the Pacific (WSP-EAP) in 2007 showed that a total 121,199 cases of health problems, which killed 50,132 people, were caused by poor sanitation.
More than 6.4 million tons of feces are dumped into waterways every year, the data showed. Poor sanitation causes Rp 33 trillion (US$3.46 billion) in financial losses each year in the health sector.
To prevent sanitation-related health risks, the Health Ministry has introduced its Community-Based Total Sanitation (STBM) initiative, which aims to improve awareness among communities on the importance of clean and hygienic living.
Wilfried said the program aimed to curb open defecation and promote clean living so that people would wash their hands with soap, consume only well-prepared food and properly dispose of their domestic waste.
“Avoiding open defecation can reduce diarrhea by 32 percent, while washing hands properly with soap can reduce up to 45 percent of cases,” said Wilfried (Antara News)