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29 Aug, 2017

Indonesia acts to curb stunted child growth via improved nutrition

Jakarta, 26 August 2017, (ANTARA News) — Children are the most valuable assets of a nation, as the future of a country lies in their hands. If the children are malnourished, they will experience stunted growth, and their brain development will not be normal.

Indonesia is currently facing the issue of child malnutrition, and the country needs to make breakthroughs to solve the problem that threatens its future generation.

According to the Health Affairs Ministry, some 37 percent, or approximately nine million children, under the age of five in Indonesia experience stunted growth and such cases are found across Indonesia.

Stunting is impaired growth and development observed in children due to poor nutrition, repeated infections, and inadequate psychosocial stimulation.

Children are defined as stunted if their height-for-age is more than two standard deviations below the WHO Child Growth Standards median.

Stunting in early life, particularly in the first one thousand days from conception until the age of two, has adverse functional consequences on the child.

Some of these consequences include poor cognition and educational performance, low adult wages, and lost productivity and when accompanied by excessive weight gain later in childhood can lead to an increased risk of nutrition-related chronic diseases in adult life.

Currently, Indonesia is one of the countries with a high prevalence of stunting as compared to that of other middle-income nations.

Indonesia lies in the group of countries with the worst stunting conditions, with cases of stunting in infants and anemia in adult women, along with 47 other nations, including, Angola, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Haiti, Malawi, Nepal, and Timor-Leste.

To address the problem, Vice President Jusuf Kalla has vowed that the government will continue to improve the nutrition of infants and toddlers, with the hope that children will no longer experience stunted growth.

“We are speaking about the future of the nation, as the future depends on children and their health. We do not want to create a nation with stunted children. Hence, it (stunting problem) should be overcome,” Kalla said after presiding over a plenary meeting for handling the problem of stunting in children held at the vice presidential office on Aug 9.

The government has set a target to reduce further cases of stunting, Health Minister Nila Moeloek confirmed.

“The World Health Organization (WHO) has set the target at below 20 percent. Actually, some regions have reduced cases of stunting, but there are 100 locations, which had recorded relatively high number of cases due to several problems, such as lack of access to clean water and sanitation facilities. Hence, we are jointly working on this,” Moeloek remarked.

Coordinating Minister for Culture and Human Development Puan Maharani revealed that the government was striving to promote a balanced nutrition program involving 12 ministries and agencies.

The government has allocated Rp60 trillion to overcome childhood stunting caused by chronic malnutrition.

“Almost 12 ministries and institutions were involved in the efforts to overcome the problem of stunting, and the total budget from these 12 ministries and institutions could reach Rp60 trillion,” Puan Maharani stated.

The government had earlier named 50 districts and cities as the target for programs to tackle the problem of childhood stunting. However, the number of districts has increased to 100, and the program will run from 2017 to 2019.

“The point is how to synergize all programs, which currently run separately. We have urged Bappenas (the National Development Planning Board) to include the programs in its planning, thus these 100 districts could serve as pilot projects,” Maharani added.

In the meantime, according to Bureau of Statistics (BPS), as of March 2016, the number of Indonesians living under the poverty line had reached 28.01 million, and 11.26 million, or 40.22 percent of the total, were children.

Based on the National Economic Social Survey conducted in March 2016, however, the percentage of underprivileged children in Indonesia was recorded at 13.31 percent. Nearly half of them, or 47.39 percent, live on Java Island.

The highest child poverty rate is in the provinces of Papua, West Papua, and East Nusa Tenggara, at 35.57 percent, 31.03 percent, and 26.42 percent, respectively.

“We need to further study the problem of child poverty, as children are an important and national asset for the future,” Suhariyanto, head of the BPS.

In fact, the government has urged all parties to intensify poverty alleviation efforts that have not been made optimally.

In the past seven years, the poverty level in Indonesia has decreased by three percent. However, the number is not quite encouraging, so numerous efforts still need to be carried out.

Implementing the Peoples Business Credit program for micro businesses and affirmation program by providing the Health Card and Smart Card, as well as providing food supplement to underprivileged children, are among the governments efforts to reduce poverty.