Poverty, development, and health closely intertwined in South Sulawesi

The world is facing unprecedented challenges due to the economic, health and social costs of the global COVID-19 pandemic.


Although South Sulawesi has the highest economic growth in Indonesia, recent evidence points to high economic inequality, high prevalence of stunting, and poor maternal health. COVID-19 presents a risk of exacerbating these conditions.

PAIR researchers are investigating the impact of the pandemic and have uncovered a significant relationship between poverty, development, and health outcomes in South Sulawesi.

Key findings

Health, social and economic impacts of COVID-19

  • COVID-19 has led to an increase of 1.63 million poor people nationally, and approximately 0.03% increase in South Sulawesi.
  • Young people (aged 15-24) are significantly less likely to follow social distancing and practice hygiene measures.
  • Households in the highest level of income (earning above Rp 7.2 million or AUD 700 per month) have the highest probability of income loss.
  • Trade and services sectors are more likely to experience income loss.
  • Compared to other regions, South Sulawesi experienced lower income loss, but greater decrease of consumption and online shopping.
  • The lowest income group experienced the highest income loss.

Characteristics of people with disability in South Sulawesi districts

  • Disability is a development issue, because of its bidirectional links to poverty: disability may increase the risk of poverty, and poverty in turn may increase the risk of disability.
  • Local stakeholders in Maros, Pangkajene and Barru districts recognise the importance of addressing the needs of people living with disability, but they have limited human resources with sufficient capacities (such as psychiatrists, psychologists, mental health nurses and health promotion staff) to respond.
  • On average, more than four people in every village of Pangkajene & Kepulauan are physically disabled – around double the national average.

Food & nutrition security

  • Indonesia faces a triple burden of malnutrition (child undernutrition, adult overweight or obesity, and micronutrient deficiencies), which is attributed to low dietary diversity and inadequate intake of essential micronutrients.
  • Compared to the national average, South Sulawesi households have lower dietary diversity and are significantly less likely to consume meat.
  • The government’s in-kind food subsidy program, BPNT (Bantuan Pangan Non-Tunai) was introduced in 2017 to replace Rastra (Beras Sejahtera). BPNT has:
    • Improved the dietary diversity of the poor households by approximately 12.4%
    • Improved consumption of essential nutrients by poor households, except the daily fat intake.
    • Better targeted performance of social protection programs in Indonesia.

Socio-economic factors influencing mental health in Indonesia

  • There is a statistically significant correlation between gender, marital status, health status, religiosity and social capital on mental health.
  • For instance, a male aged 24-46 years has a lower incidence of mental disorders compared to females in the same age group.
  • Unmarried individuals were found to have a 5% higher depression score than their married counterparts.
  • Individuals who are healthy are estimated to have a 10% lower depression score, compared to those who were not healthy.


Improved health outcomes are closely linked to development and poverty reduction. Researchers will conduct further research to provide advice to policy makers on strategies to improve the health outcomes in South Sulawesi.

Further research will develop:

  • Analysis of health (COVID-19), mental health and poverty in the three PAIR districts – 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.

This research will be carried out between 2021-2022.

The research team

PAIR research group: Young people, health and wellbeing

The research team will discuss their findings at the PAIR Virtual Summit Day 4 (3 December 2020)

Register for “Addressing public health and disability issues affecting youth in South Sulawesi within a COVID-19 context” here