SurfAid’s Community Based Health Program (CBHP) operates in Nias and the Mentawai, and aims to reduce the high infant mortality rate through delivering education, training and support which leads to sustainable behaviour change. Groups of women volunteers work together in their own community, and collaborate with the local health department, to deliver health messages on nutrition, hygiene and sanitation to their neighbours, focusing on at-risk households. They are our frontline, receiving ongoing training and support from SurfAid staff. This program is anchor-funded by the New Zealand Aid Programme and Billabong.


The Mentawai Islands, with a population of 74,000 people, are situated 150km to the west of Sumatra, Indonesia. The serious isolation of the Mentawai Islands has led to some significant community health issues, and there is limited capacity in the Mentawai Health Department to address these issues. In general, the Mentawai people have poor nutrition and suffer from a high prevalence of treatable diseases, accompanied by low levels of understanding of their causes.

The program has been established to implement significant and lasting changes in how communities and vulnerable individuals collectively manage health issues in areas where basic health services are extremely limited, or non-existent. The health situation is critical, as assessed in 2007 by SurfAid through a baseline KAP (knowledge, attitudes, practices) survey. The results include:

+ child mortality (under five years of age) of 93 per 1,000 live births;
+ infant mortality (under one year) of 49 per 1,000 live births;
+ malnourishment in children under five years of 41%;
+ anaemia in pregnant women of 65.9%.

The first phase of health-related activity in the Mentawai focused on malaria, through the Mentawai Core Health Program (which was renamed the Mentawai Community Based Health Program). The project targeted 23 communities spread throughout the individual islands, using local community volunteers as the means of disseminating training and supporting implementation and adoption of new health practices. The community health component of this project implemented a series of activities intended to promote an understanding, at community level, of how health can be improved through behaviour modification.

The Community Based Health Program in Nias is now in its second phase, and has funding support from the New Zealand Aid Programme until the end of 2012. As in the Mentawai, the key focus of CBHP Is community volunteer groups, comprising women who are committed to improving their own community health. They work with SurfAid field staff and are trained In how to implement health initiatives focused on sanitation and hygiene, mother and child health, nutrition and respiratory infections.

The goal of CBHP Nias is to improve the health of vulnerable persons in SurfAid target areas along the coastal areas of Nias Island and reduce mortality in children under five years of age by improving clean water availability, hygiene, sanitation, malaria reduction, nutrition, and improved health services.
To facilitate the improvement of water provision and sanitation damaged in the March 2005 earthquake and to improve hygiene and sanitation practices in SurfAid target areas
+ Communities are leading and managing their own village health programs
+ Improve nutritional status and immunisation of children under five
+ Improve hygiene and sanitation practices in partner communities
+ Reduce morbidity and mortality in children under five due to acute respiratory infection, diarrhoea and malaria in partner communities
+ Improve maternal and neonatal health outcomes in partner communities
+ Communities and partnering health providers are delivering improved quality health objectives


SurfAid is a non-profit humanitarian organisation whose aim
is to improve the health, wellbeing and self-reliance of people
living in isolated regions connected to us through surfing.
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