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‘We felt a heat attack’: effects of extreme weather on our communities and fieldworkers


By Mohammad Hatta, RISE Indonesia Community Fieldworker
15 May 2023

Recently my Community Fieldworker colleagues and I went out to our partner communities to conduct our latest round of health and wellbeing survey with residents. It’s hard to believe this is the 14th round we’ve done since RISE began.

This was also the second time we collected faecal samples from mothers. There are two elements to our survey: the ‘household’ survey covers a wide range of demographic variables – like a census – as well as measures related to child and adult health, healthcare utilisation, wellbeing, time use and environmental exposures.

The ‘house’ survey also asks questions about the physical conditions in and around the house. This covers things like water quality and access, sanitation, solid waste (like rubbish / garbage), cooking, environmental information (flooding, animals, mosquitos), and building-related information. All of this is important for us to know in our quest to find whether our upgrades to peoples’ environments can lead to better health.

Extreme conditions

The climate conditions we often face now are quite different from when RISE started operations in 2017.

Unlike previous surveys, this survey was carried out in quite extreme weather. Previously March was a dry season. For this campaign that ran from February to April, it was like two seasons – dry and rainy. This had implications for our work.

Sometimes we had to postpone our survey for several hours when it had rained heavily in Makassar in the morning. We also had to change and swap with other locations for surveys, for the safety of our team. And sometimes we had to postpone until the next day and move to a different location due to flood inundation.

Feature - floods in MAK.jpg

Previously a dry season, community fieldworkers faced
extreme weather conditions during this campaign.

At other times we were also dealing with scorching hot weather when it was dry. We felt the heat attack when we got to our settlements. We had to use safety equipment such as raincoats, umbrellas and hats – these were the main accessories during this survey.

Effects on the city and people

During this time, the city of Makassar’s activities also stopped for a day due to flooding in a number of areas. Schools were closed, and RISE staff had to head home early as flooding prevented us from accessing the RISE office at Hasanuddin University’s Faculty of Public Health.

These difficult conditions are not only felt by RISE’s field staff, but also by the communities we work with, especially residents in the fishing village where the fishing schedule has been affected.

One fisherman expressed his feelings between survey activities. He found it difficult and had to owe money to a neighbour’s shop to fulfill his daily life. He could not go out to sea because of the extreme and dangerous weather. From his previous experience, in March they were able to go to sea with better weather. However, this year, in the same month, the weather was less friendly, so the down time before being able to go out to sea again was longer than the previous year.

Learnings for the team

Even though – or maybe because – the team worked in unfriendly weather conditions, we learned some interesting lessons from this campaign. Daily planning and evaluations made us more efficient in our time and effort, as we navigated each fieldworker’s list of target respondents to be surveyed at each site.

Overall, our team conducted 637 surveys and collected 134 stool samples, a great success despite the weather.

Feature - teamwork

Mapping out the right times to visit each site helped the team
navigate extreme conditions together.