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COVID-19 Response Project in Indonesia Part 4: Summary

From May to August 2020, Sasakawa Health Foundation funded a project in five districts of Indonesia’s South Sulawesi Province to support persons affected by leprosy and their families amid the coronavirus pandemic. PerMaTa South Sulawesi, an organization of persons affected by leprosy, took the lead in carrying out the following activities assisted by Dare This Indonesia (DTI): delivering food and other assistance, advocating with the government and disseminating information on social media. Here is a final report on the project.

 

Food assistance

Working from a roster of leprosy patients they received from local health centers, leaders from PerMaTa’s South Sulawesi branch visited 913 persons affected by leprosy over a three-month period, providing them with information about COVID-19 and face masks. In the process, PerMaTa learned of those who had lost their livelihoods due to the coronavirus pandemic and were unable to receive government assistance because they didn’t have identity cards. As a result, PerMaTa revisited 511 people who were in urgent need of support and delivered supplies such as rice and eggs to help them get through the difficult times.

For many households, this was their first time to receive a visit from PerMaTa and they gave the visitors a warm reception. On the other hand, there were some who refused to meet with them, fearful that it would tip off neighbors that they were persons affected by leprosy. In addition to the 913 people PerMaTa successfully visited, they attempted to call on over 100 others, but their names or addresses had not been correctly listed on the rosters and they were unable to meet. Many, it seems, did not want their relatives or neighbors to know they were being treated for leprosy, so did not give the health center their correct details. For PerMaTa, this underlined the fact that discrimination remains a serious challenge and one that needs to be handled sensitively.

 

Advocacy

As they traveled from household to household, PerMaTa members also worked to solve any problems they encountered. They asked district and village authorities to issue identification so that persons affected by leprosy could be added to the list of those receiving government support. They also visited schools that were preventing children cured of leprosy from attending, talked to them about leprosy, assured them there was no fear of infection and requested that the children be allowed to resume their studies.

A number of government agencies and health centers actively cooperated with PerMaTa, giving them information and advice and sometimes accompanying PerMaTa into remote or mountainous areas to search for addresses together. The fact that PerMaTa was able to build good relationships with the authorities bodes well for future efforts to address leprosy and its consequences.

 

Information dissemination

PerMaTa used Facebook and WhatsApp to circulate information about the coronavirus and their activities on social media. Between PerMaTa as a group and members posting in a personal capacity, posts were sent out almost every day over the whole three-month period. Thanks to their enthusiastic efforts, PerMaTa’s activities in South Sulawesi caught the attention of persons affected by leprosy and government officials in other leprosy-affected provinces. Online media also took up the story and it became widely known.

 

PerMaTa leaders in each district were able to demonstrate their capacity to deal with the challenges of delivering support to persons affected by leprosy confidently and responsibly amid the coronavirus pandemic. They also developed good relationships with government agencies and health centers that will stand them in good stead. In addition, they strengthened their ability to communicate as an organization.

Beginning in November, PerMaTa South Sulawesi with the support of DTI is now embarked on a year-long initiative to assist communities of persons affected by leprosy amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic under a new grant program started by Sasakawa Health Foundation the same month. We look forward to seeing PerMaTa utilize the experience it gained under the recently ended project and further strengthen its activities in the service of persons affected by leprosy and their families.

 

Catch up with the day-to-day activities of PerMaTa’s South Sulawesi branch and of DTI on their Facebook pages.

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2020/8/13 COVID-19 Response Project in Indonesia
2020/9/4 COVID-19 Response Project in Indonesia Part 2: Young Leaders of PerMaTa
2020/10/7 COVID-19 Response Project in Indonesia Part 3: New Encounters

For more information about our COVID-19 aid projects, click here.