Researcher who completed his Masters of Science in Environmental-Public Health at the University of Queensland
Indonesia will have a new capital, according to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, to occupy the regencies of North Penajam Paser (PPU) and Kutai Kartanegara (Kukar) in East Kalimantan. The new capital city should be the panacea to problems of Jakarta, the current capital, including the public health sector.
The annual forest fires as in the previous days is blamed for exposing people, especially the young, to acute respiratory infection (ISPA). In East Kalimantan alone authorities reported almost 7,700 hotspots from early 2018 to 2019.
Unfortunately, those public health problems are worsened by lack of awareness and public health human resources and facilities, including active community health centers both in Kukar and Paser regencies.
Lack of functioning drainage systems in the regencies pose further sanitary problems. All these issues only show part of the Health Ministry’s pile of homework in cooperation with other ministries and institutions. At least priorities would be preventing acute respiratory infection, dengue fever and sanitation for the new capital.
More pulmonologists especially in the areas prone to forest fires are needed. Paramedics should be equipped with a huge supply of oxygen canisters and other equipment.
The Health Ministry should also collaborate with the Forestry and Environment Ministry and provincial disaster agency for exchanging information on the occurrence of forest fires to enable immediate delivery of health care.
While moving to East Kalimantan indeed may help us avoid the threat of earthquakes in Java, another threat to be taken into account is communicable diseases. First is dengue fever. Figures released in 2017 revealed an increasing trend of dengue fever in East Kalimantan. In 2015 the number of 7,305 cases jumped to 10,878 in 2016, though the figure could be brought down significantly to to 1,734 in 2017. Moreover Kukar ranked third in dengue cases in the
province with 264 cases, followed by only 12 cases in PPU.
Another public health threat is tuberculosis (TB). There was a steady growth of new TB cases at the province level, increasing from 2014 with 1,953 cases to its peak in 2017 with 2,635 cases. At the regency level, TB in Kukar reached 475 cases with 103 in PPU. Unfortunately, at the province level the success rate of TB eradication kept decreasing from over 96 percent in 2013 to almost 74.65 percent in 2017.
The new capital will also likely face similar public health problems like Jakarta.
For example, the number of swamps around the new city could provide breeding ground for malaria. Hence, in preparing the public health plan, the Health Mnistry would need to place more emphasis on environmental disease issues. Among others it should increase the capacity and number of mosquito surveillance staff.
There is only five years time according to the plan to move the capital. Thus speeding up infrastructure such as for sanitation and water supply access would certainly be among urgent tasks.
In the Kukar and PPU regencies, provision of health services and medication should also consult local knowledge among residents.
When Jakarta is selected as a capital city, initially named Batavia, it was already prepared and developed by the Dutch colonial government. But now we have to develop our new capital from scratch. Moving the old city to the new capital should deliver solutions instead of moving problems.
Lecturer at Faculty of Public Health at the University of Indonesia (UI). The above views are personal.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.