Photo: UNICEF Indonesia
Photo: UNICEF Indonesia

Kedoya Utara is one of the poorer neighborhoods in Jakarta. Sitting between megamalls and skyscrapers, this area struggles with makeshift living conditions, polluted waterways and unreliable electricity.

There is one subject of particular concern in Kedoya Utara – immunization rates among children are very low. This puts them at the risk of contracting life-threatening diseases such as measles and diphtheria.

“There is an equity gap in Jakarta and around Indonesia – children from poor families, especially those in slum areas, are not reached regularly for their full vaccination doses,” UNICEF Indonesia Health Specialist Dr. Kenny Peetosutan says.

“Children who are not immunized can be a potential threat to other children in their community,” Dr. Peetosutan says. “So by ensuring that each child receives all the required vaccines, we can eventually protect the whole community.”

Neighborhoods like Kedoya Utara present a number of challenges for health workers. It’s particularly difficult to track and monitor each and every child – which is fundamentally important to make sure they get all their relevant vaccinations.

So in 2015, UNICEF begun to pilot RapidPro technology in seven sub-districts around Jakarta. RapidPro is a programme that collects information by sending and receiving bulk SMS text messages.

The technology opens new communication channels among local authorities, health workers and community members. This data is then monitored over time.

“I am especially worried about measles,” says midwife Maena Nhur Desita who works in Kedoya Utara. She’s out administering vaccines at a local Posyandu. During the hour that she is stationed there, only a few mothers bring in their children.

But this is slowly starting to change. Her team begun using RapidPro technology to obtain information directly from the community to understand the reasons for poor attendance rates. Health workers now know where and how to focus their efforts.

Colleague Maya Saptarika explains the next steps “We will soon start using RapidPro to actually contact individual households and remind the parents when the kids are due for their next vaccination visit.”

“Our expectation is that after doing this, it will contribute to increasing immunization coverage,” Ms. Saptarika says.

There are approximately 1.9 million children under one who are not fully immunized around Indonesia. RapidPro is an important development in addressing this.

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