Meulaboh is a city in the province of Aceh, on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. Around 70,000 people live in this city, which was one of the hardest hit during the 2004 tsunami.Indeed, an estimated 10,000 were killed by the natural disaster in Aceh. While the city has been rebuilt, people still suffer from prevalent poverty in the region.Children are especially vulnerable to these difficult living conditions, while girls also suffer from the common practice of female genital mutilation in Indonesia.
Since 2007, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Meulaboh.
Although Indonesia is the largest economy in Southeast Asia, inequality grows between rural and urban populations, and between the different islands, divided in provinces. One can notice this in Aceh, where Meulaboh is located. In fact, 15% of people there live below the poverty line.
This can be partly linked to the 2004 tsunami, which killed 170,000 Indonesians and left 150,000 children without parental care in Aceh. These children are most at risk of being trafficked, sexually exploited or forced into labour.
Although the city has been rebuilt and infrastructure restored, people are still struggling with the economic consequences of the natural disaster.
Female genital mutilation (FGM), is, according to the World Health Organization, “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” This practice is still prevalent in Indonesia, and 49% of girls aged 0 to 14 years old have undergone FGM.
In Aceh specifically, where Meulaboh is located, between 51% and 80% of girls have undergone the procedure. FGM can lead to immediate health risks, as well as a variety of long-term complications affecting women’s physical, mental and sexual health and well-being throughout the life-course.