Friday, September 29, 2023

Indonesian in Australia Relies on e-Commerce to Help Family Back Home

Iris Zeng
August 7, 2021 | 10:04 am
A man wipes sweat off his forehead near a sign that reads "Sorry oxygen is out of stock" on Jalan Minangkabau in South Jakarta on July 15, 2021. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
A man wipes sweat off his forehead near a sign that reads "Sorry oxygen is out of stock" on Jalan Minangkabau in South Jakarta on July 15, 2021. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

Sydney. Being thousands miles apart from her homeland, Yunie Rahmat —an Indonesian living in Australia— can only rely on online marketplaces to buy oxygen tanks for her family back home, as Indonesia's fierce fight against the Covid-19 pandemic continues.

Indonesia's Covid-19 tally has worried the Indonesians living abroad, and Belmore resident Yunie is no exception. 

Yunie is currently living in the epicenter of Australia's Covid-19 crisis that is now a " national emergency". Since June 26, a strict lockdown has forced Sydney residents to stay at home. And from within her four walls, Yunie orders medical supplies online for her family in Bandung, West Java.

"I send medical supplies to my family in Indonesia from online shopping, like medicines, oxygen, masks, thermometers," Yunie said.


Infections soar, and so does the demand for oxygen. News of Indonesians queuing to refill their oxygen cylinders have painted a grim picture of the pandemic situation in the country. Given the scarcity, Yunie is lucky to have sourced oxygen from online marketplaces such as Shopee and Bukalapak, unlike many of her friends back home. 

"One of my friends has a very critical condition because she has asthma," she said.

"She has problems finding oxygen both online and also in shops. Even if you go directly to the retailer, lots of people are already queuing and the supplies are very, very limited," she added.

Not only are oxygen tanks running out, but ICU beds and ventilators are at capacity. Poverty rates rise in Indonesia, leaving citizens poor, hungry, and sick amid the pandemic. 

"It has been very devastating for us Indonesians to be here because we are constantly worried about our family in Indonesia,"  Yunie said.

“I'm angry at the level of denial and the level of underestimation from the Indonesian government towards Covid-19.”

Daily death news from overseas reaches Rahmat through Whatsapp messenger as she is confined in her apartment. 

"Unfortunately, my father-in-law did not make it," Yunie said. “We lost people we love. We lost people we know.” 

And like thousands of other Indonesian compatriots separated from home, she feels helpless before Indonesia’s ravaged situation. 

“It makes me anxious, it makes me frustrated, and I can do nothing from here,” she said.

The Covid-19 Task Force reported on Friday the coronavirus death toll in Indonesia reached 104,010 fatalities, with cases continually growing. Government data showed that Indonesia now has over 3.6 million confirmed Covid-19 cases. 

Keeping in Touch
Yunie cannot do much in lockdown. She lives in a Covid-19 hotspot with her husband and young son, but her thoughts are with Indonesia.

“Sometimes you really want to control things, but this pandemic makes me realize that so little of it, we can control,’ Yunie said.

She misses home, but tries to find things that make her happy, like watching movies, cooking nasi goreng (‘fried rice’), and calling her family in Indonesia. 

“Try to avoid overthinking about the future events that we don't have the capacity to control,” she said.

“I chat with my mother, my father, my sister and my brother every day, and we have Zoom calls or WhatsApp calls at least once a week.”

Lucky in Lockdown 
The NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has stretched the state-wide lockdown to August 28 to combat the spread of the Delta strain.

Australia’s total Covid-19 cases climbed to 35,000, with nearly three hundred new infections recorded daily in the past week. Strict stay-at-home orders from late June remain in place alongside ongoing contact tracing, Covid-testing, and a nationwide vaccine rollout. Given the pandemic situation is worse in Indonesia, Rahmat considers herself lucky.

“We are lucky the protocols are clear, and the testing capacity is bigger compared to our families in Indonesia who are struggling everyday with Covid,” Yunie said.

According to the NSW Ministry of Health, Sydney residents must stay within 10 kilometres of their local government area (LGA), wear mandatory masks, and cannot leave home unless for an essential need, such as buying food or medical reasons. 

Shopping and outdoor exercising are severely restricted to no more than one or two people at a time. 

“It’s sort of just toughing it out,” Dan Trevanion, a volunteer at Australian Indonesian Youth Association (AIYA) said.

“We're never too far away from the lockdown potentially being done.” 

For him, the biggest lifestyle change was socializing. He has not seen his friends in several months.

“Next month turns out to be three or four. So, we’re always living in false hope.”

At home, he spends time volunteering at AIYA, a nonprofit organisation that supports Indonesian youth across the Pacific. They run virtual workshops and webinars for young people in Jakarta and Yogyakarta. 

‘Our main role during the pandemic has been keeping everyone engaged, social and active and feeling like they're supported by friends and people,” Trevanion said. 

Trevanion is also aware of how many Indonesians appeal for blood donations and oxygen for their loved ones on social media.  

"That's quite confronting, seeing your friends post this sort of stuff about their family members," he said.

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