How CARE is Leading a Women-Focused COVID Response in Indonesia - CARE

How CARE is Leading a Women-Focused COVID Response in Indonesia

A portrait of CEO Care Indonesia Bonaria Siahaan inside the negative pressure tent in Public Health Center Pematang, Serang, Banten Province, Indonesia, Tuesday 3rd, 2021.

Bona Siahaan, CEO of Yayasan CARE Peduli (CARE Indonesia) inside one of the organization’s negative pressure tents at a Public Health Center in Pematang, Serang, Banten Province, Indonesia. Photo: Rosa Panggabean/CARE

Bona Siahaan, CEO of Yayasan CARE Peduli (CARE Indonesia) inside one of the organization’s negative pressure tents at a Public Health Center in Pematang, Serang, Banten Province, Indonesia. Photo: Rosa Panggabean/CARE

Q&A with Bona Siahaan, CEO of Yayasan CARE Peduli (CARE Indonesia), on the country’s second COVID wave and how the organization has shifted to meet the community’s needs.

Indonesia is currently experiencing a second wave of COVID infections, with cases spiking in Java and Bali in June, followed by spikes in other areas. Bona Siahaan, CEO of Yayasan CARE Peduli (CARE Indonesia) recently shared how the organization has shifted to meet the need.

How has CARE Indonesia responded to the second wave of COVID-19?

Part of our response is to continue what we have been doing since the pandemic began: reducing community risk by providing handwashing facilities with clean water, soap, and masks, while sharing information about avoiding transmission. This has been followed by efforts to mitigate economic impact, particularly for women, many of whom have lost jobs or incomes. We have a program called Cash for Work where we provide working capital intended to generate income.

With this recent spike, we’ve built negative-pressure tents in several locations to accommodate patients who cannot be accepted in hospitals. Some of these tents are set aside for pregnant women with COVID. For those who self-isolate at home, particularly women and children, we also donate packages containing vitamins, food supplements, and masks so they can improve their nutrition and recover quickly.

A health worker injects the vaccine to students during vaccine program in Cinangka Public High School, Serang, Banten, Indonesia, Monday, August 9th 2021. Students need to bring permission letter from their parents to get vaccinated.
A health worker administers the COVID-19 vaccine to students as part of a vaccine program at a high school. Students must have a permission letter from their parents to get vaccinated. Photo: Rosa Panggabean/CARE

How has the pandemic affected women who care for their families and work outside the home?

A number of women have double roles and responsibilities during the pandemic, even when they are infected by or exposed to COVID. Women all over the world are primary caregivers. For example, even when self-isolating after exposure, women have in turn exposed their families because their responsibilities have not stopped.

“We hope, together with other organizations, to gain community support for our activities in terms of both policy and funding, as well as encourage other partners to work with us.”

For women working in factories, movement restrictions have changed operating hours, lengthening shifts. This has reduced rest time and made it more difficult for women to take care of their families outside of work. The most worrying thing is that many women working in factories never take COVID testing. We know factories have the biggest probability of getting exposed. So when they come home, they don’t know if they have been exposed until they experience symptoms.

How has COVID changed how CARE Indonesia works?

This pandemic brought many changes, both in daily life and in working life. As a humanitarian and development organization, we must adapt. Most of our activities involve interacting with the community, much of that in the field. So we have had to find ways to reduce group gatherings. That means activities that were previously done once now become multiple times because groups are smaller.

Because we must safeguard the safety of our staff, our partners, and the communities we work in, we must look across the entire scope of our activities to avoid risks. So, for sure, health protocols like masks, hand sanitizer and other protections are a priority, which affects our planning. This also affects the timeline – not just ours, but also the community’s. For example, training now takes longer since it has to be done for multiple smaller groups.

For staff, of course we want to make sure we never engage in activity that carries big exposure risk. Of course, we cannot do all activities virtually – donations, assessment and distribution must involve field work. So we must ensure our staff are protected, while avoiding any unnecessary contact.

A negatife pressure tent in Pematang Public Health Care, Serang Banten, Friday, August 6th 2021. Care gives four negative pressure tents to four public health care. Two of them have the OB-GYN bed for pregnant women with covid who will give birth. 
A negative pressure tent, or isolation tent, at Pematang Public Health Care Center. CARE has provided four negative pressure tents to four public health care facilities, two of which are equipped to support pregnant women with COVID. Photo: Rosa Panggabean/CARE

How do you use your voice to help others? 

CARE Indonesia is not the only organization responding to the impact of COVID. We hope, together with other organizations, to gain community support for our activities in terms of both policy and funding, as well as encourage other partners to work with us.

What does the future hold for you? 

We hope to extend what we have done to other regions where CARE does not yet have a significant presence. In addition to negative-pressure tents and packages of food and vitamins for those self-isolating, we also plan to support health workers with PPE, supplements, and vitamins as well.

We also support the development of community-based self-isolation facilities because many cannot properly self-isolate at home. Of course, to establish these facilities we need participation, support, and acceptance from the local community so we can meet the need and be well prepared for the future should there be other spikes.

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