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COVID-19 outbreak: Positive response from local communities & organizations in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

On 31 March 2020, President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, announced a national health emergency due to the high number of people infected by COVID-19. From an economic perspective, the situation becomes worse when businesses are forced to shut down which led several companies to stop their operational activities and lay-off/furlough their employees.

A similar situation happened in Yogyakarta, a city which economy is mainly driven by students and tourists that flocked in the city annually. Since the announcement of the national health emergency, the economic wheel went slow. Nevertheless, several people continue to work and provide essential services to fulfill the basic needs of the community; this includes ojek, taxi drivers, pedicab drivers, andong drivers, and other non-formal workers. The income from these services does not appear to be worth the health risk and these sacrifices have aroused solidarity and empathy from multiple communities and organisations in Yogyakarta.

Village Food Barn Program in Brontokusuman

In my small village called Brontokusuman, we established a food barn program that powered by volunteers. In this program, those who who are more fortunate will make donations that will be spent on various basic needs such as rice, noodles, cooking oil, tea, and face masks. These packages will then be distributed on a weekly basis to families that are economically affected by the virus. We expect to carry out this program throughout the national health emergency period.

Picture 1: Food barn program’s committee members distribute the package to unfortunate residents

(Source: personal documentation)

Creative fundraising and socialisation

Other organisations in Yogyakarta are also helping local people who were affected by the virus. One of which is Kita Beraksi, a youth-based social organisation, which established a fundraising project by collaborating with local artists. This project creates art by demand and in which proceeds will be spent on basic care packages. According to the chief of Kita Beraksi, Stefani Putri, these packages will then be delivered to people in Yogyakarta who are in need such as non-formal workers in seven different spots. 

Alternatively, a collaboration between the Center for Indonesian Medical Student Activities Universitas Gadjah Mada (CIMSA UGM), a university-based medical student association, and the Center of Indonesia Sign Language Interpreter Service Yogyakarta (PLJ) produce an informative video about COVID-19 and its preventive actions in three languages: Javanese, Bahasa Indonesian, and sign language. As stated by Sekar, vice chief of CIMSA UGM’s external division, the video aims to be inclusive such that it could reach as many people as possible. The video can currently be assessed through the CIMSA UGM’s YouTube channel and Instagram account (@cimsaugm).

Welcoming of medical workers

Aside from economics, our sense of humanity is also being tested during this outbreak. Unfortunately, there are rising reports of health workers who were denied entry to their villages after treating patients who were infected with COVID-19. In one instance, villagers in Sewakul in Central Java were against organising funeral for victims of the virus. This is a real concern because some of the victims were medical workers who fought the virus on the front line. It is sad to see that villagers were against the funerals even though it would have been done by following strict health and safety standards.

A different reaction is shown by villagers in Baciro in Yogyakarta who welcomed medical workers that stayed temporarily in one of the government-owned building in their village. Some of the villagers even displayed posters, gave salutes, and clapped their hands to signal their support.

Picture 2: Residents of Baciro Village, Yogyakarta was welcoming medical workers who stayed temporarily at Pusdiklat Kemendagri Building located in their residential area. 

(Source: Kompas/Yustinus Wijaya Kusuma, 2020)

Picture 3: Residents are lifting posters with “you are our heroes” and “welcome heroes” written on it. 

(Source: Radar Jogja, 2020)
To conclude, our solidarity and humanity are being tested at present. This has led President Joko Widodo to come out and encourage our culture of solidarity and gotong-royong during this tough time. It is in my hope that positive responses can be spread out so that they can continue to inspire others beyond our community.

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