The Newsletter 71 Summer 2015

Disease eradication and national reconstruction in Indonesia and the Philippines during the early decades of the Cold War

Vivek Neelakantan

By the time Indonesia finally attained de jure independence in 1949, it had been devastated by warfare resulting from Japanese occupation (1942-45) and a revolutionary struggle against the Dutch (1945-49). In addition to many other worries, the country had to cope with the resurgence of epidemic and endemic diseases. President Soekarno declared that independence had ushered a new period of development in all fields, including health. He argued that, as the key problem of health was economic, Indonesians should focus their efforts on economic development. Similarly, in his First State of the Nation Address (1954), Filipino President Ramon Magsaysay asserted that no nation could go ahead if crippled by disease. The two declarations attest to the centrality of public health in the post-World War II national reconstructions of Indonesia and the Philippines.