The New Year has ushered in a dual human security threat of epidemic proportions for Indonesia to think about.
The long-drawn battle against the H5N1 has only just begun, with Jakarta attempting to meet the ambitious February 1 backyard poultry ban deadline. Thus far, just within the first few weeks of 2007 the country has encountered six human deaths from the bird flu, rendering the total number who died in the outbreak to 63.
A new wave of dengue fever has also hit, killing at least 51 people and infecting some 3,000 this year.
To stress the seriousness of the government’s will to act against the H5N1, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) has deployed military personnel in community services to help curb the spread. SBY also called upon all provincial governors, district heads and mayors to activate the community components and services under their authority as well. Furthermore, a plan to increase funds for bird culling compensation payments will be included in the draft revised 2007 state budget.
The government has banned backyard poultry farms from residential areas, as well as imposed tighter restrictions on the movement and sale of poultry and poultry products in nine provinces of the entire Java island, from the lead taken by Jakarta.
Ahead of the February 1 deadline, 65 administration units in the 10 sub-districts of South Jakarta have been pursuing the proposed mass culling of 10,000 fowls.
Tough challenges remain for the bird flu fight, as the mass culling has incurred resistance from poultry traders in Central Java, who have threatened a mass rally against the policy.
According to the secretary general of the National Chicken Breeders Association (Gopan) Heri Darmawan, "the ban should be enforced in stages instead of all at once because it takes time for chicken traders to prepare enough chicken slaughter facilities. Besides, Jakarta residents traditionally prefer to buy live chickens.”
The publicised ban has also resulted in a drastic drop of 50 per cent in chicken demand, Darmawan added. Elsewhere, Jabidi, a trader from Banjarnegara, and Sunaryo from Purbalingga, explained that "every day each of us suffers losses of Rp 50,000 (US$5.26). The wholesalers suffer bigger losses of about Rp 2 million a day.”
“The government shouldn't just focus on the disease…pay attention to us too, the little people who earn our living as poultry traders. Don't wipe out the disease by destroying all the chickens ... If this happens, how will we earn a living? Our children need money to go to school," Sunaryo added.
Besides bird flu, the current seasonal outbreak of dengue estimated to last until March later this year due to monsoon season and poor sanitation, is putting Indonesia’s hospitals and health care system under stress.
Jakarta, the current epicentre of the bird flu battle, has experienced a surge in dengue fever patients from 10 to 21 percent last week. The deputy head of the Jakarta city administration`s health service, Salimar Salim, announced that the authorities have been handling the situation as an extraordinary case, such as taking anticipatory measures to maintain the thrombocyte supply for treatment. He also reassured that although the number of patients had increased, it had not yet reached last year’s level (2,535 patients and 51 deaths).
Meanwhile, West Java province has declared an alert status for dengue fever on January 26, after 33 lives were taken in January alone, and caused infections in 24 of its 26 cities and regencies. Officials are presently taking steps to reduce the risk of dengue by fogging and raising public awareness.
Dengue fever kills 50, infects 3,000 (AFP/AP/The Straits Times, 26 January 2007)
President orders military to help contain spread of bird flu (Antara, 26 January 2007)
Number of dengue fever patients in Jakarta continues to rise (Antara, 27 January 2007)
West Java on high alert as dengue fever cases mount (The Jakarta Post, 27 January 2007)
Jakarta facing serious bird flu threat, says official (Antara, 28 January 2007)
Jakarta's 10 subdistricts resume poultry slaughter (Antara, 29 January 2007)
Chicken traders oppose mass culls to fight bird flu (The Jakarta Post, 29 January 2007)