Jakarta. The government needs to expand its definition of vulnerable groups during the coronavirus pandemic to be able to help more people in need, Santi Kusumaningrum, the director of the University of Indonesia's Child Protection and Wellbeing Center, or Puskapa, said on Tuesday.
"The government has been helping the poor and the sick. But during the pandemic, more people are vulnerable in many different ways. We need a broader definition of 'vulnerable group,'" Santi said.
She said people who were previously not included in the vulnerable group category could quickly slide into it during a pandemic like Covid-19.
Those who were already vulnerable could be suffering even more.
Puskapa has been encouraging the government to also help children, disabled people and the elderly – all of whom are not yet part of vulnerable groups according to the government.
According to Puskapa's data, a total of 208 policies have been issued by ministries and state agencies and 288 by regional governments to handle the Covid-19 pandemic by May 11.
"The pandemic has brought out new social and economic problems. The government needs to broaden their definition of vulnerability and issue more inclusive policies," Santi said.
Puskapa had studied vulnerable groups in 15 areas most affected by the pandemic: Jakarta, West Java, Central Java, East Java, South Sulawesi, Banten, West Nusa Tenggara, Bali, West Sumatra, North Sumatra, Papua, South Kalimantan, East Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan.
"In these areas, there are 7.2 million households with toddlers, 6 million with elderly family members and 8 million with family members who are disabled," Santi said.
There are also 1.2 million children between the age of 10 and 17 who are forced to work.
"Some of those children are the breadwinners for their families. During this pandemic, many of them have lost their jobs," Santi said.
The government should pay special attention to children, elderly people and people with disabilities who have no access to clean water, electricity and proper sanitation during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Santi.
The vulnerable group category should also include children who don't live with their families – aka children in prisons, orphanages and boarding schools – and people receiving social assistance, refugees, homeless people and socially excluded people.
Santi said the government could begin by collecting a better set of data and improving their services to be more responsive.
"If basic public services are ineffective, vulnerable groups will be affected badly. The government can't rely on online services since many in these groups have no access to internet connection," she said.
She said the government should also provide more safe space for both vulnerable children and adults.
"People in vulnerable groups usually can't just stay at home during the pandemic because they still have to work. More safe spaces are also needed for children and adults who live in areas where they might experience violence," Santi said.
Santi said extending the large-scale social restriction would also greatly help vulnerable groups during the current pandemic since they lack the resources to protect themselves from the coronavirus.