Sunday, April 01, 2018

Repotnya Belanja dengan Uang ‘Keriting’

Catatan Redaksi: Kontributor Tamu Warta Pilihan, Ahmad Husein, tengah berkunjung ke Viantiane, Laos untuk sebuah tugas. Ia menuliskan beberapa catatan ringannya buat Wepi.

Menyaksikan Vientiane, ibukota negara Laos, seperti menyaksikan Jakarta tahun 70 atau 80-an.  Tak banyak gedung pencakar langit di kota yang menurut sejarah merupakan daerah pemukiman strategis di cekungan Sungai Mekong sejak lebih 2000 tahun silam. Viantiane ditetapkan menjadi ibukota Laos pada sekitar abad 16. Setidaknya, sejauh mata saya memandang dari lantai tiga gedung kementerian sosial dan pemukiman Laos, hanya ada satu gedung tinggi berwarna biru di kejauhan.  Jika kita berkeliling kota, tata ruangnya, perumahan-perumahan penduduk, toko, pasar, dan fasilitas umum lainnya, semua diatur mirip seperti Indonesia.

Bagi yang pertama kali berkunjung ke sini, kesan sederhana muncul kuat sejak mendarat di bandar udara Wattay, yang lokasinya sekitar tiga kilometer di luar ibukota.  Terminal kedatangannya biasa saja, mengingatkan saya pada bandara Polonia beberapa belas tahun silam. Jangan salah, layanannya cukup baik. Taksi yang mengangkut penumpang ke kota kondisinya cukup baru. Nyaman.

Saya berada di Viantiane  selama lima hari untuk sebuah pelatihan. Sebagaimana halnya kebanyakan penduduk di wilayah Asia Tenggara, warga Viantiane amat ramah terhadap pendatang. Apalagi, banyak wilayah di negeri punya potensi wisata sehingga menjadi daya tarik sendiri bagi turis untuk berkunjung. Tercatat 4,23 juta wisatawan datang ke Laos. Angka ini sebenarnya turun 10 persen dari tahun sebelumnya, menurut data Departemen Pengembangan Wisata Kementerian Informasi, Budaya, dan Wisata setempat.

Tandai Resto Halal

Dengan penduduk mayoritas beragama Buddha, mencari makanan halal buat mengisi perut bagi seorang muslim tentu menjadi sedikit tantangan. Karena itu, sebelum berangkat, saya berselancar di internet mencari lokasi-lokasi makanan halal di sekitar kota yang bisa menjadi penyelamat saat perut lapar. Ternyata tidak terlalu susah, saya menemukannya meskipun jumlahnya tak banyak.

Salah satu yang paling popular di kalangan traveller adalah Restoran Nazim di Chao Anou Road. Saya mencatat nama resto masakan India ini, tetapi menemukannya secara kebetulan saat jalan-jalan di pasar malam tepat di tepian Sungai Mekong, lima menit dari penginapan. Saya temukan bahwasanya Chao Anou Road tepat berada di seberang pasar. Papan nama rumah makan tersebut berwarna hijau menunjuk ke arah dalam, sekitar 30 meter. Resto ini buka pukul 9 pagi hingga 10.30 malam.

Malam itu pengunjung tidak terlalu banyak. Sebagian besar memilih duduk di meja-meja di luar resto. Di dalam, hanya ada tiga sampai empat keluarga, dengan tampilan perempuan berhijab dan pria bergamis, sedang bersantap.  Ada pula bule yang terlihat bersama rekannya menikmati hidangan. Saya bersama seorang rekan dari Australia dan Filipina ikut masuk.

Kalau melihat yang tertera di menu, harga-harganya cukup variatif, mulai 10.000 Kip (sekitar Rp 16.000) hingga 70.000 Kip (Rp 114.000). Sedikit di atas harga rumah makan lokal. Kurs 1 Laotian Kip (LAK) setara dengan Rp 1,63.  Saya memesan satu nasi briyani dan daging domba, sedangkan rekan dari Filipina berinisiatif memesan kebab ayam bumbu hijau daun mint dengan rotti. Adapun kenalan vegetarian saya dari Australia menyantap kari dari sayur bayam yang disebut Palak Paneer.  Lezat, tetapi pedasnya sudah disesuaikan. Saya merasa menu sejenis di Jakarta jauh lebih ‘nendang’ dari yang tersedia di sini.

Selain Nazim, ada pula Vieng Resto, masakan Thailand, yang konon dimiliki oleh seorang imam asal Indonesia yang menetap lama di Vientiane.  Juga Aashifa Restaurant, masakan India dan Malaysia. Bagi mereka yang mencari nasi goreng ramah di lidah Melayu, mereka wajib berkunjung ke resto ini. Ada juga Fathima Resto, mengandalkan masakan India dan Malaysia, di kawasan Quai Fa Ngum, tak jauh dari Nazim. Mungkin saya akan mencoba mencicipi hidangan mereka satu per satu di hari-hari berikutnya.

Kip Huruf Keriting dan Nol Berderet

Sejak tiba di bandara dan menukarkan mata uang dollar AS ke Kip Laos, saya sudah tersenyum sendiri. Kip tak beda jauh dengan Rupiah sebagai mata uang yang nilainya lebih rendah dibandingkan dengan mata uang umum seperti dolar AS, Poundsterling, Swiss Franc, atau bahkan dolar Singapura.
Bahkan, faktanya, mata uang Kip satu tingkat  lebih ‘terhormat’ dibandingkan rupiah.  Satu dolar AS setara dengan 8 kira-kira 8.209 Kip, sementara untuk Rupiah itu sekitar Rp 13.000. Sebagai perbandingan ekstrem, negara dengan kurs mata uang paling parah dari segi nominal masih dipegang oleh Zimbabwe, dengan 1 dolar AS dinilai sama dengan 35 kuadriliun dollar Zimbabwe. Ya, kuadriliun, dengan 15 angka nol.

Yang membedakannya dengan rupiah adalah bahwa uang kertas Laos ini ditulis dalam alfabet Lao atau Akson Lao, yang diadaptasi dari aksara Khmer, turunan dari aksara Pallava/Pallawa yang merupakan kembangan dari alfabet Grantha, biasa dipakai di kawasan India Selatan dan Asia Selatan selama abad kelima hingga keenam Masehi.  Huruf-hurufnya ‘keriting’ hingga sulit menerkaya. Pecahan terkecil uang kertasnya adalah 500 Kip, lalu ada pecahan 1.000 Kip, diikuti masing-masing dengan 2.000, 5.000, 10.000, 20.000, dan 100.000 Kip.

Bagi orang luar yang tidak familiar dengan aksara ini, tentu saja memegang uang tersebut menjadi masalah, termasuk saya. Baru dua hari di Vientiane, saya sudah mengalami sulitnya melakukan pembayaran. Ketika berjalan-jalan di pasar malam, saya mer
asa haus dan membeli sebotol besar minuman ringan. Penjualnya menyebut harganya 6.000 Kip. Saya cek di dompet, betapa susahnya mencari jumlah yang pas seperti diminta. Di kertas mata uangnya, tulisan Lao ada di satu sisi kertas, termasuk angka, dan sisi sebelahnya barulah dalam alfabet Latin. Sampai-sampai, si penjual ikut ‘membongkar’ tas saya, lalu memilihkan jumlah uang yang terdekat dengan yang ia minta.

Demikian juga saat di Nazim Resto. Saya membayarkan lebih dulu total tagihan makan malam saya dengan dua teman lainnya. Usai makan, kami lakukan hitung-hitungan. Ann, sebut saja demikian, nama rekan dari Australia, menyerahkan pecahan 10.000 Kip. “Kembalian ke saya cukup 5.600 Kip,” katanya. Ternyata butuh bermenit-menit buat saya untuk membongkar, mengecek nilai mata uang, lalu menjumlahkannya kembali sesuai yang diminta.

Ita, kolega saya di kantor sebelumnya, yang tinggal sementara di Viantiane dalam rangka program pertukaran, mengaku mengalami kesulitan serupa. “Tiap kali naik tuktuk (sejenis bajaj – Red.), Saya selalu bingung mencari pecahan yang pas. Sampai-sampai supir tuktuknya ikut-ikutan menunjuk-nunjuk isi dompet dan memilih lembar yang diperlukan,” keluhnya.

Begitupun, secara umum suasana di ibukota Laos ini cukup menyenangkan, meskipun temperaturnya cukup panas, mencapai 37 derajat Celcius di siang hari. Jika ingin jalan-jalan, sempatkan di waktu petang atau malam. Banyak area yang bisa dijelajahi untuk sekadar cuci mata.

(ahmad husein)

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Heavy rain triggers floods and landslides in Indonesia

by Ahmad Husein, IFRC 

Torrential rains during the first week of February have caused severe flooding in eight provinces in Indonesia, heavily affecting Aceh, North and West Sumatra, Riau and Bangka Belitung. The floods isolated more than 89,000 people and forced them to evacuate to safer areas. The provinces of West Sumatra, Riau and Bangka Belitung have announced a state of emergency, while some districts in Purworejo in Central Java were hit by landslides. A 12 metre-high hill collapsed and buried two houses, killing seven people. It is estimated that around 9,450 people have been affected by the floods in West Sumatra, while landslides in the district of Solok Selatan left five people dead and one missing. 

In response to the emergency, the Indonesian Red Cross Society (Palang Merah Indonesia) deployed 200 volunteers to provide first aid, medical services, and to evacuate people in the affected areas. At the peak of the flooding, the Red Cross distributed relief items including 100 pairs of boots, 400 family kits and 300 tarpaulins in West Sumatra. 

“The floodwater rose up to three metres high, inundating five sub-districts in Pangkal Pinang City and forcing 4,800 people to leave their homes,” said Wahyono, an Indonesian Red Cross volunteer. 

Hundreds of local villagers insisted on staying on the second floor of their houses instead of evacuating even as the floods disrupted transportation lines and cut off power and water supplies. Overflowing rivers have swamped at least 674 houses, covered hundreds of hectares of farmland and causing damage to five bridges. The local Red Cross Chapter in Binjai City, North Sumatra, worked with local authorities to evacuate 3,000 people to shelters provided by the government. Meanwhile in Jakarta, the Indonesian National Board for Disaster Management estimated that at least 17 spots in the capital city have been inundated.   

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is supporting the response of the Indonesian Red Cross, utilizing a contribution of 135,000 Swiss Francs (around 200,000 Australian Dollars) from the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). 

“Thanks to funding we have obtained from the Australian Government, Palang Merah Indonesia will be able to provide immediate assistance to 5,000 people, especially women, children and the elderly in eight districts in Aceh, West Sumatra and Bangka Belitung provinces,” said Giorgio Ferrario, Head of the IFRC in Indonesia. 

The overall strategy will cover health services through a mobile clinic, including first aid services, health promotion and psychosocial support. The Red Cross also plans to provide clean water to the most affected areas and distribute relief items and kits for cleaning contaminated wells. Based on the information collected by assessment teams, the Red Cross is also considering a cash transfer programme for the affected communities, which will allow them to purchase items they need directly from local markets.

Link to the article: IFRC Website - Sumatra Flood 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Red Cross continues to support haze-hit communities in Indonesia

By Ahmad Husein, IFRC Indonesia (published: 18 November 2015)
Published: 18 November 2015 7:53 CET(
Published: 18 November 2015 7:53 CET
Published: 18 November 2015 7:53 CET

In recent weeks, long awaited monsoon rains have finally helped to extinguish a large portion of the devastating forest fires that have been raging in Indonesia for the past three months. The fires, caused by Palm oil and paper pulp companies and smallholder farmers illegally setting fire to forests to clear land to plant more trees, have had a devastating cost on the regions environment, economy and on human health. 

The worst hit areas of southern Kalimantan (Borneo) and western Sumatra have been enveloped in a toxic haze caused by the fires which also spread to neighbouring countries including Singapore and Malaysia. The burning of some 2.1 million hectares of forests and other land has caused 21 deaths and led to more than 500,000 falling ill with respiratory problems. 

 Efforts to extinguish the fires which began in July were hampered due to the dry conditions worsened by the current El Nino event impacting the region. According to the World Resources Institute, emissions from this year’s fires have reached 1.62 billion metric tons of CO2—which moved Indonesia from the sixth-largest emitter in the world up to the fourth-largest in just six weeks. 

When the fires escalated in September and October, the Indonesian Red Cross deployed over 600 volunteers to provide humanitarian support to affected communities in Kalimantan and Sumatra. The teams deployed with water tankers, ambulances and water purification units and also distributed thousands of face masks. 

Emergency funding from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) disaster response emergency fund (DREF), the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and USAID has helped support the Indonesian Red Cross’s relief work in nine districts across three affected provinces. 

A three month emergency response operations plan from November to January 2016 included the establishment of emergency houses, also known as “smoke-free facilities” which are equipped with air purifiers aimed at easing the respiratory problems caused by the haze. These centres cater particularly to vulnerable groups such as children, pregnant women and the elderly – by providing first aid, basic symptomatic treatment, health education, psycho-social support and referral to health facilities in case needed. 

Red Cross medical action teams are also providing mobile health services for people in remote areas who can’t access health facilities in cities. Doctors and medical staff provide first aid, distribution of oxygen, vitamins, eye drops and face masks as well as health education. 

 Fahmi Kubra, father of five children lives in Muara Teweh, Central Kalimantan. When thick smoke covered the city, his youngest child fell ill with a severe respiratory infection. When Fahmi brought his child to the local hospital, he found that all the rooms had been occupied with patients with the same problem. Most of them are children and the elderly. His only option was to return home and receive treatment as an outpatient. 

The situation for local residents in Palembang, South Sumatra was no different. “Of the patients we were treating with respiratory problems almost fifty percent were children,” explained Rugayah Haniya, a doctor at a local community health center in the city. 

Although the haze has now reduced significantly, community members still come to the Red Cross emergency houses with continuing respiratory complaints. With the rains come another set of health threats associated with waterborne and communicable diseases. One of the roles of the Red Cross mobile clinics is to conduct health promotion activities amongst local community to ensure they are better prepared in the event of any potential disease outbreaks.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Thousands go hungry as freak cold wave hits Papua

By Ahmad Husein, IFRC

Volunteers of Indonesian Red Cross Society are unloading aid materials in sub-district Kuyawage, Lanny Jaya. About 182,000 people are affected as extreme weather hit areas in Papua, Indonesia. Photo Credit: Indonesian Red Cross Society - See more at: http://www.ifrc.org/en/news-and-media/news-stories/asia-pacific/papua-new-guinea/thousands-go-hungry-as-freak-cold-wave-hits-papua--69124/#sthash.Px2Er6Wu.dpuf
In recent weeks, thousands of people in the Indonesian Province of Papua have been suffering the effects of a severe cold wave that has left remote communities in need of food and clean water. The cold wave first struck at the beginning of July, hitting the district of Lanny Jaya particularly hard. The sub-districts of Kuyawage, West Wanu and Goa Baliem were struck by hailstorms accompanied by freezing temperatures which plunged to minus two degrees Celsius.

"Water is an urgent need for the communities in Lanny Jaya,” said the Executive Chairman of the Indonesian Red Cross Society, Ginandjar Kartasasmita. Local water sources are reportedly frozen or have been contaminated and supplies of bottled water are unavailable in local markets. In response, the Red Cross has so far distributed 500 gallons of drinking water, blankets and instant food to help 182,000 people who are in need of humanitarian assistance.

All aid items have been decided following a rapid assessment carried out by the Red Cross in coordination with local authorities which have distributed five tonnes of rice to Kuyawage and deployed two doctors and five nurses.

The average temperature in Lanny Jaya ranges between 17.8 degrees to 32 degrees and such an extreme cold wave hasn’t been witnessed since 1989. So far, nine people have died, half of whom were children. Hundreds of people are suffering from health problems while thousands are threatened with food shortages. The hailstorms caused severe damage to farmland and killed a large number of livestock.

“Our community has suffered as the hailstorms destroyed yam crops and people have nothing to harvest. It also killed 168 pigs which are our main livestock,” said Lenius Muria Lanny, head of Kuyawage sub-district. Delivering aid to the region is a major challenge. Affected villages are nestled high in the mountains and to reach them, Red Cross volunteers walked for three days with supplies as the unstable weather has hampered efforts to send materials by small aircraft which is normally the only form of transportation that can be relied upon.

According to the Indonesian Agency for Meteorological, Climatological and Geophysics (BMKG) the cold wave with accompanying hailstorms is a climatic event that could be attributed to El NiƱo which typically brings colder than normal temperatures to the far eastern Pacific during the June-August and September-November seasons.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Red Cross provides health and psychosocial services to grieving family members



By: Ahmad Husein, IFRC Indonesia

Following the disappearance of Air Asia’s flight QZ8501, the Indonesian Red Cross, locally known as Palang Merah Indonesia (PMI), opened its health and psychosocial services post at the Juanda International Airport in Surabaya, East Java. The Airbus A320-200, carrying 155 passengers and 7 crewmembers from Surabaya to Singapore, lost contact with air traffic control at 6.17am local time around Tanjung Pandan, an area between Borneo and Java Island. Debris from the plane and several bodies believed to be the passengers were found in the Pangkalan Bun area, Central Kalimantan, after more than 48 hours of intensive search efforts.

“We, in collaboration with the Surabaya Municipality, initiated the operation of this health and psychosocial service post on Monday for the family members who stayed at the airport waiting to hear news of their loved ones,” says Mirta Krisna, a PMI coordinator stationed at the post. While the authority focused on search and recovery operations, PMI sees the urgency of providing appropriate health services for the passengers’ family members. To smooth the operation, PMI deployed five skilled volunteers to work in three different shifts each day for 24 hours. They are equipped with two ambulances that are on standby at the airport.

In Sumatra, PMI’s Bangka Belitung chapter is providing an ambulance at the H.A.S Hanandjoeddin airport, the nearest location to where the plane reportedly crashed in East Belitung, Sumatera. Meanwhile, the PMI branch in Kotawaringin Barat, Central Kalimantan, has mobilized 25 volunteers to the search area to help local authorities. The Central Kalimantan Chapter provided two ambulance units, while the South Kalimantan Chapter contributed 80 body bags and one ambulance to help with the recovery efforts.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Indonesia: Red Cross responds to 6.2-magnitude earthquake in Aceh

 A rapid response team of ten staff from the Red Cross headquarters in Jakarta were deployed to the affected area to assist with assessments, and health and medical services. Photo: Indonesian Red Cross Society



Published: 2 August 2013 17:36 CET
By Ahmad Husein and Madeline Wilson, IFRC

One month after a 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck Aceh Province, Indonesia, the Red Cross continues to provide support to affected communities. Over 52,000 people were forced to flee their homes after the earthquake struck Aceh Tengah and Bener Meriah districts, killing 42 people and injuring over 2,500 people.

The Indonesian Red Cross Society – or Palang Merah Indonesia (PMI) – initially deployed 32 volunteers to reach both locations to assist with search and rescue operations, assess needs and distribute relief supplies. A rapid response team of ten staff from the Red Cross headquarters in Jakarta also deployed to the affected area to assist with assessments, and health and medical services.

 For 43-year-old Mahyudin, the earthquake occurred when he was on his way home from work in Aceh Tengah. His first thoughts were for the safety of his wife and their three children.

“The world seemed to end,” Mahyudin remembering the moment the earthquake struck. Mahyudin later found that part of his house had indeed collapsed, but his family were safe. They evacuated to a safer place with 40 other families from the neighbourhood and erected shelters. Later that evening, Mahydin’s entire house collapsed during the aftershocks that continued into the night.

Mahyudin’s family are one of the 1,500 families who have received clean drinking water from the five Red Cross water trucks – each one provides a total of 25,000 litres of water each day. Mahuydin’s son also attends the informal educational activities being carried out by Red Cross volunteers, to provide a place for children to play and learn while they are unable to go to school, as classrooms were damaged and school operations are currently on hold while teachers and families in the area begin to recover.

Mahyudin explained that he was worried about his son after the earthquake, but the support from the Red Cross has helped to create a sense of normality. “He is okay now, playing with his friends without any complaint. I am very relieved for him,” says Mahyudin.

Hundreds of earthquake survivors have received medical treatment from three Red Cross mobile health clinics. The clinic teams travelled in ambulances to remote areas, particularly in Aceh Tengah, and included doctors and nurses, while an orthopaedic surgeon supported operations in the Datu Beru Hospital in Takengon City, Aceh Tengah.

The Red Cross has distributed relief supplies in 24 villages, including over 600 family kits, 500 tarpaulins, 1,600 blankets, 200 baby kits, clothing and other essential supplies. The Red Cross has also distributed  20,000 zinc roof sheets to repair the roofs of 1,000 houses.

The operation being carried out by the Indonesian Red Cross Society is supported by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Funds from the IFRC’s Disaster Response Emergency Fund have been released to support the distribution of essential supplies, health services, as well as water, sanitation and hygiene activities.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Thousands leave their homes following floods in Jakarta

Published: 22 January 2013 15:44 CET
By Ahmad Husein, Senior development and communication manager, IFRC Indonesia

The Indonesian Red Cross Society is assisting in the clean up after flood waters inundated parts of Jakarta, leaving 11 people dead, and the city’s transport network disrupted. Khairul Saleh, who works at the organization’s headquarters in Jakarta said his village of Rawa Buaya, Cengkareng was cut off by flood water, and dozens of people were evacuated to higher ground. Volunteers in the area also established shelters and set up a field kitchen to ensure everyone was fed.

In the wake of the floods, 230 Indonesian Red Cross staff and volunteers quickly responded to the flood hit Jakarta after two days torrential rain poured the capital city and outlying areas including Bogor, Bekasi and Tangerang. Thousands of people on the way to work were forced back home.

One of crucial parts in evacuation process is to make sure everybody was safely transferred to shelters. Many people living along the river bank of Ciliwung, were reluctant to leave their homes. Some left only when the water level reached dangerous levels and the situation became more serious, and the assistance of a search and rescue team was the only way out.

The Indonesian Red Cross Society sent out five water rescue teams in partnership with local authorities to search and save trapped residents in affected areas. Eventually, they rescued 100 residents in five villages around east and south Jakarta.

“We continue our searching by boat to ensure nobody left in flooded areas,” said Budi Pranoto, a field coordinator at East Jakarta chapter.

The organization has provided almost 25,000 meal packages per day for the 20,000 survivors currently living in tents and shelters.

Puji is staying at a shelter in a primary school in Kebon Baru, Tebet South Jakarta with her child. She said she felt lucky as Red Cross and local government erected tents to survivors and give them meals and clean water.

Though she is concerned for her parents insisted on staying at their house.  “I hope Red Cross can bring them here,” she said.

Recently the organization has undertaken promotional work to ensure that people in areas at risk of flood understand the most effective ways of keeping themselves and their families safe.

Nur Hasanah, 50, ilives in Kebon Baru, Tebet South Jakarta, a village which experienced a three metre flood. She chose to leave the house with her two children as soon as it became clear that floods were on the way. “Thank God all of us are safe,” she said.

Nur has been part of the Red Cross community-based action team for the past three year and has been involved in emergency planning in preparation for a flood or other disaster. She advised villagers on safe evacuation and is currently working in a field kitchen.

“It is always good to help people. And I’m good in cooking,” she said.

While the flood water is beginning to recede, the Indonesian Red Cross Society is urging everyone to stay on alert for more extreme weather predicted over the next few weeks.