COVID-19 and the health of Indonesia’s young people

Mapping health and wellbeing challenges in the South Sulawesi seaweed farming community is the aim of a group of researchers from the Australia-Indonesia Centre.


The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened health and wellbeing challenges for young people in the developing world, with well-documented cases of loss of income, lack of access to hygiene and nutrition, poor physical and mental health combined with instances of disability.

Understanding these challenges is crucial to helping decision makers and stakeholders formulate accurate and effective responses.

Mapping these challenges in South Sulawesi is made more difficult as uneven development has led to high economic inequality, and uneven access to sanitation and nutrition. The AIC researchers are working on this project as part of their role with the Partnership for Australia-Indonesia Research (PAIR) program. The focus is on seaweed farming communities in the three districts of Maros, Barru and Pangkep along the Makassar-Parepare rail line.

Previous research by the PAIR research team analysed health vulnerabilities for young people in several important areas. COVID-19 has has been deeply felt in South Sulawesi as it has been one of the highest impacted regions in Indonesia outside Java.

This has presented a health and wellbeing challenge, while also negatively affecting household economic consumption which is likely linked to loss of income caused by pandemic response restrictions. In their investigation into instances of disability, the researchers found evidence that poverty and disability are interlinked, and are both causes of the other.

The research team has also looked at a government food voucher system (BNPT) and found the program boosted the nutrient intake and dietary diversity of those who used the system, contributing positively to their health.

The most recent analysis mapped mental health disorders, and identified women to be the most affected demographic with the addition that being unmarried or under financial stress was likely to impact mental health.

The latest project builds on this previous research.

AIC Senior Fellow and project co-lead Dr Sudirman Nasir said the researchers wanted to develop genuine solutions.

“In collaboration with key stakeholders, through our research program we propose to identify youth that are at risk of vulnerabilities and develop practical solutions to address these issues,” Dr Nasir said.

Key research areas include:

  • Analysis of health (COVID-19), mental health and poverty in the three districts along the Makassar-Parepare railway line – identifying strategies for improving policy-making and interventions
  • Analysis of disability and poverty to develop strategies to assist policy-making
  • Strategies for increasing young people’s participation in improving the effectiveness of village fund (Dana Desa) Program
  • Understanding livelihood diversification & its impacts on household food and nutrition security.

The team has identified these areas as crucial to the health and wellbeing of young people in South Sulawesi. Mental health, disability and poverty, nutrition and food security, as well as young peoples’ participation in development initiatives are central to the successful and healthy development of the region.

The YPHW team intends to conduct a large data-gathering operation, primarily through household surveys. This data will be analysed and the resulting conclusions will form the evidence base for future policy recommendations.

Research co-lead Prof. Anu Rammohan said the benefits of the household surveying method was it “allows us to evaluate the success of our evidence-based solutions, and provide policy solutions that are cost-effective, deliverable and can be scaled up in future”.

Their data, discussion, and recommendations will be provided to government, NGO, and public stakeholders, and are intended to improve the health and wellbeing of young people in South Sulawesi.

The Research Team

The Partnership for Australia-Indonesia Research (PAIR) is supported by the Australian Government and implemented by the Australia-Indonesia Centre.

Photo by Gradikaa Aggi on Unsplash

Picture of Lachlan Brooks

PAIR Intern
The Australia-Indonesia Centre