Ramadinah Milala, 8, center, poses with neighbors as Mount Sinabung volcano erupts with ash and smoke behind them, at Kuta Tengah village, North Sumatra last year. (Reuters Photo/Beawiharta)

UNFPA Urges Indonesia to Focus on Most Vulnerable Groups in Times of Crisis

JULY 06, 2015

Jakarta. The United Nations Population Fund, or UNFPA, has called on Indonesia to pay closer attention to the most vulnerable members of its population — women, young girls and youths — during times of natural disasters and other emergencies.

The agency extended its concerns on Monday, ahead of World Population Day on July 11.

A total of 1,559 natural disasters were recorded across the archipelago in 2014 alone, it said, citing data from Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB). Ranging from floods to volcanic eruptions, the incidences resulted in 490 deaths and displaced some two million people.

It is estimated that 25 percent of those effected during these emergency situations are women of reproductive age, the UNFPA said in a press statement.

“In times of humanitarian emergencies, the vulnerability of women, girls and young people is often increased,” the statement read. “Girls and women in crisis situations face much greater risk of abuse, sexual exploitation, violence, forced marriage, reproductive health-related illnesses, and death due to the lack of protection and an absence of aid delivery to their needs.”

The report adds that at any given time, approximately 4 percent of the those affected by disasters and other emergency situations are pregnant. Of those women, 15-20 percent will develop pregnancy complications.

“With statistical estimates like these we should expect that any disaster is likely to involve pregnant or postnatal women,” UNFPA Indonesia representative Jose Ferraris said in the statement.

World Population Day was inspired by "The Day of Five Billion," when the world’s population stood at five billion people on July 11, 1987. To observe the upcoming commemoration, the UNFPA on Monday organized a seminar in Jakarta, raising the theme “Vulnerable Populations in Emergencies."

Addressing a keynote speech in the seminar, Social Services Minister  Khofifah Indar Parawansa said the Indonesian government was committed to protecting vulnerable groups.

Surya Chandra, the newly-appointed head of the National Family Planning Board (BKKBN), meanwhile, emphasized that the “agency’s priority is to ensure that family planning services are always available, in all conditions, including in an emergency or crisis."

Ferraris said the Indonesian office of UNFPA has incorporated a reproductive health component in its humanitarian program since 2007.

“[The program] has been taken up by the government of Indonesia to help mitigate risks associated with reproductive health in a humanitarian crisis into disaster responses,” he said.

Women, children and young people make up more than three quarters of the more than 50 million displaced people across the globe, making them the most vulnerable groups during emergencies, the UNFPA said.

“When a crisis strikes, humanitarian response must be swift and adaptable to the needs of affected populations,” UNFPA executive director Babatunde Osotimehin said. “Women and young people may especially require targeted support, and aid must be sustained from the onset of an emergency until recovery.”