Indian Catholic News

Millions of Indonesian kids still plagued by malnutrition

Govt is allocating US$74 billion this year to help underfed children, raise awareness of good diet.

 
Four-year-old Ayu Santika, who suffers from malnutrition, is pictured with her grandmother in a low-cost apartment in North Jakarta while her mother works as a neighborhood cleaning lady to make ends meet. (Photo by Konradus Epa)
Jakarta: 

At the age of four, Ayu Santika should be in pre-school like other children her age. But unlike them she is thin, weak and pale — telltale signs of malnutrition.

A woefully inadequate diet is a fact of life for millions of children in Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago nation where access to basic medical treatment is also an issue for families living on or under the poverty line.

Cases of mass child deaths as a result of malnutrition may sound like a horror movie but sadly are not.

At least 65 children died in Papua province earlier this year due to a poor diet. Instead of addressing the situation, the military responded by ordering a female BBC reporter to leave for tweeting about the health emergency.

But such reports are not limited to remote Indonesian regions.

Ayu lives with her parents in a low-cost apartment building unit in Muara Baru in North Jakarta. She has been diagnosed as undernourished since 2016.

Weighing in at just 10kg, the family doctor describes her as being "severely underweight," according to her mother, 21-year-old Adika.

And at just 80cm, Ayu's growth has already been stunted, the premature legacy of a life without nutritious food that was always destined to be beyond the scope of her parents' meager budget.

Ayu was born when her mother was just 17. Adika now works as a part-time cleaner earning a paltry US$38 a month. However this is $38 more than her husband, who is unable to find employment.

"I'm very busy with my work so I have to leave Ayu with my mom," Adika told ucanews.com.

Each month she takes Ayu to a government-run pediatric clinic near their apartment but there have been no tangible results so far suggesting her condition has not improved.

Adika said she regrets not being able to send her daughter to pre-school education but the annual fee is equivalent to one month's pay, making it a bridge too far.

At the age of four, Ayu Santika should be in pre-school like other children her age. But unlike them she is thin, weak and pale — telltale signs of malnutrition.

A woefully inadequate diet is a fact of life for millions of children in Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago nation where access to basic medical treatment is also an issue for families living on or under the poverty line.

Cases of mass child deaths as a result of malnutrition may sound like a horror movie but sadly are not.

At least 65 children died in Papua province earlier this year due to a poor diet. Instead of addressing the situation, the military responded by ordering a female BBC reporter to leave for tweeting about the health emergency.

But such reports are not limited to remote Indonesian regions.

Ayu lives with her parents in a low-cost apartment building unit in Muara Baru in North Jakarta. She has been diagnosed as undernourished since 2016.

Weighing in at just 10kg, the family doctor describes her as being "severely underweight," according to her mother, 21-year-old Adika.

And at just 80cm, Ayu's growth has already been stunted, the premature legacy of a life without nutritious food that was always destined to be beyond the scope of her parents' meager budget.

Ayu was born when her mother was just 17. Adika now works as a part-time cleaner earning a paltry US$38 a month. However this is $38 more than her husband, who is unable to find employment.

"I'm very busy with my work so I have to leave Ayu with my mom," Adika told ucanews.com.

Each month she takes Ayu to a government-run pediatric clinic near their apartment but there have been no tangible results so far suggesting her condition has not improved.

Adika said she regrets not being able to send her daughter to pre-school education but the annual fee is equivalent to one month's pay, making it a bridge too far.

Santika and Hesti are now under the care of Child Welfare Bureau of Jakarta Archdiocese, which provides them with green bean porridge, milk, bread, vitamins and biscuits.

Bureau coordinator Herman Yoseph Marsudi said the office has helped many children in Jakarta since 2000.

"We always advise their parents, particularly mothers, so prioritize milk and nutritional food," he said.

He said each year they help feed hundreds of children in parts of the capital.

Muhayati works as the coordinator of a childcare center in Muara Baru known locally as Posyandu. She said the center takes care of 12 malnourished children from poor families in the area.

Part of the problem, she said, is that many mothers only attended elementary school, meaning they were never taught about how to raise a healthy child.

"We cooperate with the Child Welfare Bureau of Jakarta Archdiocese to try and raise awareness of a good diet," she said.

Diah Mulyawati Utari, a nutritional expert from the University of Indonesia, said infections and disease are also a major concern for underprivileged families.

"Malnutrition is also related to poor sanitation facilities, a lack of clean water, education and transportation costs, which are expensive," she told ucanews.com.

The government has been assigning more of its health budget to help grassroots projects like the Posyandu service but more needs to be done, she added.

Posyandu only opens one day a month and yet it plays an important role in charting the growth of at-risk children. If it detects any cases of malnutrition it immediately refers the child to a local hospital for further care.

Utari said that based on WHO classifications, which have been applied in Indonesia since 2005, the weight and height of children in the country indicates that millions are malnourished.

The number hit 6.5 million last year, leading Indonesia to rank as the fifth worst country in the world in terms of poor nutrition for its young.

According to Indonesian Health Minister Nila Moeloek, nine million kids are now experiencing stunted growth as a result of their diet. He said they mostly live in Sumatra, Sulawesi, Papua, Nusa Tenggara and Java.

The minister said that in order to overcome this problem the ministry is pushing to educate people on the importance of living a healthy life.

It also provides food supplements and clean water for children in need as well as immunization and sanitation programs, he added.

This year the government has allocated a budget of US$74 billion to address these issues, a move applauded by rights groups.

Source: UCAN

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