How often do you think about your kidneys? Kidney health may not be at the top of your priority list, but in Indonesia it's a growing issue. Thousands of people suffer from kidney disease annually and the number is doubling about every 4 years according to a study done by Wiguno Prodjosudjadi, MD, PhD; A. Suhardjono, MD, PhD. Because access to clean water and affordable food is a pressing challenge for most people living in developing countries such as Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria and India; many young people grab a quick bite from the many cheap street food vendors.
I have to admit the food appears delicious but looks can be deceiving. The problem is that the vendors don't follow food safety regulations which makes the food dangerous. As a result, both the consumption of contaminated water and bacteria-filled street food leave many innocent victims to suffer from diseases like diarrhea and food poisoning.
This leads to kidney failure.
What is most shocking to me, is that there are over 5 million people dying in developing countries from completely preventable kidney issues. Why? Access to treatment is expensive. Access to health care is limited.
AIESEC Indonesia volunteers have a mission to stop the growth of Kidney Disease by teaching their peers and young children some strategies for preventing it all together. I had to learn more, so I traveled to Indonesia to find out about a project that they call The Hometown Project.
In collaboration with Danone to celebrate World Kidney’s Day, the Hometown Project encourage AIESECers to go "home" during the holiday and do campaigns in parks and beaches as well as host fun workshops in their schools. The main message of this project is about the importance of drinking clean water to keep the kidney's healthy. Danone donated boxes and boxes of water bottles to hand out at these events.
The Hometown project started in January and impressively, by the time I arrived in February, they had already held 50 events in 19 cities. We only had time to see the work being done in the city of Makassar, but this same system was replicated across the islands. I participated in two school workshops and played with hundreds of children while talking about where our kidneys are located and the 8 golden rules for how to be healthy including: Exercise and drink 8 glasses of water.
In total, the school outreach campaign has reached over 90,000 students!
While the AIESECers were busy creating school activities, painting posters, and organizing campaigns; the mayor of Makassar was also innovating some new policies and health focused programs.
Mayor of Makassar, Moh. Ramdhan ‘Danny’ Pomanto, understands that many people cannot afford health care and also that lack of easy transportation makes it difficult for sick people to get to the hospital. He explained his big idea while we sat Wednesday morning over tea.
Just call 112 (similar to the United States 911) and a nurse comes quickly to your home with a smart phone. The nurse will check you out, take some photos and videos on an app and immediately a doctor will review the video and help the nurse give treatment. The best part is that it this service is totally free for those living in Makassar. He hopes the idea will be replicated in other cities across Indonesia.
I've seen many amazing projects around the world this year that are furthering the United Nations Global Goals including education initiatives in Finland, reducing inequalities in Hungary, building peace and embracing diversity in the Czech Republic, preventing hunger through increased technology and sustainable agriculture in Nepal... but:
When a refugee is sick, he can't go to that amazing school program.
When an special needs adult is sick, she can't go to her fair wage job.
When a farmer is sick, he can't harvest the rice.
Good Health is key to making sure we attain the Global Goals
and have the strength to sustain them.