Poor Sanitation in Jakarta's Slums

In Kelurahan Penjaringan, one of Jakarta's largest slums, clean drinking water is a luxury for the families who live here.

Diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, cholera and acute respiratory infection are on the rise because of contaminated water.

About 1.7 million deaths a year worldwide -- 90 percent of them children -- are attributed to sanitation-related diseases, such as infectious diarrhea, according to the World Bank's Web site.

In Indonesia, with more than 230 million people, health risks from contaminated water are among the highest in Southeast Asia.

In this capital city slum, the sticky humidity adds a layer of stench to the Indonesian neighborhood suffering from a lack of developed sanitation plans.

Families in the poorest households live in small crowded spaces. Around one corner a woman rinses off vegetables in a cloudy bucket of water. Around another, a man squats smoking a clove cigarette.

Laughing children chase each other through the dark and narrow passageways, seemingly unaware of any other way of life.

Overhead, wet clothes hung out to dry are omnipresent. Many families rely on communal areas for washing and bathing, because they do not have access to their own water supply.

Murky gray well water is polluted and not drinkable; it is hoisted up by rope and bucket and used to clean.

A woman, wearing a traditional black headdress in this predominately Muslim country, splashes well water across the floor where she is washing clothes.

Pumped water from the shallow ground has become saline -- it is funneled through plastic hoses that crisscross the ground throughout living spaces. This water is stored in canisters and used to cook. It must be boiled to drink.

For many, their only water supply is transported in jugs.

With safe water a premium for the urban poor of Jakarta, people can spend up to 25 percent of their entire income just on usable water.

A 31-year-old woman survives with her 2-year-old child on the mere $3 a day her husband makes selling goods.

"I buy six jugs of water daily to cook and twelve jugs every other day to clean," resident Ibu Isna says, as she washes clothes.

In Indonesia, Nearly half the population lives in unsanitary conditions, according to Mercy Corps, one of the relief agencies working to make a difference.

Mercy Corps collaborates with the communities, the government and the private sector to try to better the environment for the less fortunate.

In Jakarta, funded by the International Development Research Center as part of a five-city pilot project, Mercy Corps has begun implementing programs for the poorest of the poor to help improve sanitation.

At Kelurahan Penjaringan, its goal is to help more that 11,000 residents who live in targeted areas. About 55,000 people live in the area.

Work has begun to unclog septic tanks and clean up gutters. Clogged with garbage, they have become stagnant, which increases the risk of water-borne disease.

Research shows that more than 70 percent of household waste in the area is organic. As a result, communal composting has also been implemented.

Organic waste is now collected from each household every day. It is transferred by wheelbarrow to be sorted, shredded and then stored to be harvested, cutting down on overall contamination in the community.

"I hope this pilot project can be replicated in other areas," says Pak Santoso, who helps oversee the area and works closely with Mercy Corps.

More programs are being developed to test environmental and economically beneficial practices. The hope for the families living in Kelurahan Penjaringan is to simply clean up the water.