Unicef country representative Debora Comini, left, and actor Nicholas Saputra at the announcement of his new role as a goodwill ambassador for sanitation in Jakarta on Monday. (JG Photo/Diana Mariska)

Spick-and-Span Nicsap: Heartthrob Actor Appointed Unicef Indonesia's Sanitation Ambassador


NOVEMBER 11, 2019

Jakarta. The Indonesian representative for the United Nations Children's Fund, or Unicef, said on Monday that encouraging good sanitation would be the main concern of the organization as they appointed a new goodwill ambassador, heartthrob actor Nicholas Saputra, best known for his role as the clean-cut Rangga in the "Ada Apa Dengan Cinta?" franchise.

Debora Comini, the Unicef representative, said Indonesia is still bogged down by a lack of proper sanitation. 

"More than 20 million people in Indonesia still practice open defecation because they do not have access to a toilet," she said in Jakarta.

She said lack of proper sanitation could trigger a chain reaction which will cause a contagion of bacteria and spread diseases like diarrhea, resulting in higher risks of early death.

But according to Comini, comparing the state of good sanitation in Indonesia with those of other countries should be done carefully. 

"Globally, Indonesia does not perform that badly, but compared to countries with similar economic development, it can do better. In Indonesia itself, the condition is uneven. We need to advance regions that are left behind to press the figure of stunting cases," Comini said.

She said the Indonesian government has already shown a political will to improve sanitation, having partnered with Unicef at national and regional levels.

"We work with the government at each level. Nationally, we focus on allocating the sanitation budget to the right 'pocket.' At the regional level, the approach is different for each region, based on the public's awareness level," Comini said.

Newly-appointed goodwill ambassador Nicholas Saputra said raising awareness of good sanitation is indeed one of the main goals of Unicef's campaign.

"[Sanitation] problems can only be solved by a generation that possesses good knowledge. Our initial focus is on improving sanitation for children in Indonesia since this is intrinsically related to their quality of life and health," Nicholas said.

The actor, an avid traveler famous for posting photos of his trips to remote areas of Indonesia on Instagram, said he hoped his experiences visiting various regions all over the country could enrich the perspectives of the campaign and help make it work.

"Development in this country requires modern infrastructure and knowledge. But I understand the importance of preserving local wisdom. There are some [traditional] values that need to be respected," he said, mentioning the semi-recluse Baduy communities in Banten as a good example of traditional people with their own sanitation rules.

Nicholas said the Baduys do not use soap when they take a bath in the river because they see soap and detergent as pollutants to the natural environment. 

Technology and Online Security

Both Comini and Nicholas also spoke of the impact of modern technology on children in Indonesia.  

"Some of us might not have anticipated how modern technology has affected our lives. This should be one of our main concerns, [to counter] how technology, social media and access to information are affecting our children," Nicholas said.

Comini highlighted some of the downsides that technology can bring to children.

"Online security is one of the priorities for Unicef globally, and also in Indonesia. We are working with the government and media organizations to educate children and their families [about online security]. Children themselves need to be aware of the risks, they need to know how to behave online. That's their first layer of defense," Comini said.

She said no one can guarantee that the cyberspace can be fully safe. However, efforts have to be made to educate and train children to be fully aware of online security issues and how to avoid them.