Indonesia’s poor swap garbage for health care

An innovative scheme dubbed “Garbage Clinical Insurance” offers treatment and advice for free to some of Indonesia’s poorest. The effort headed by 24-year-old founder Gamal Albinsaid is a creative attempt to fill the gaps left by a threadbare welfare system. In a country where half the population lives on $2 a day, spreading the gains from a sustained economic boom has been in sharp focus recently, with contenders running in July presidential elections pledging to better the lot of society’s underprivileged.

With these clinics, we can help empower poor people.

Gamal Albinsaid, founder of Klinik Bumi Ayu

People who want treatment at the clinics bring in rubbish once a week on Saturdays. They must collect 10,000 rupiah (US$0.90) worth of garbage every month to be a member of the scheme, and this qualifies them for two visits a month. Different types of rubbish are worth different amounts. Organic waste can be turned in to fertiliser which is sold to farmers, and other materials, such as plastic and metal, are bought by rubbish collectors who process it and sell it on. The Klinik Bumi Ayu is staffed by two doctors, one nurse and two pharmacists and is open daily in the afternoons. Most of the patients are agricultural workers who toil in the rice paddies surrounding Malang, in eastern Java. Most earn between 500,000 and one million rupiah a month ($44-$88), and would struggle to get good medical treatment if the clinic did not provide it in exchange for rubbish.