One-third of Indonesian children (over 7 million) under the age of five are found to suffer from stunting, which is a condition where their height is lower than the standard height for their age. This makes Indonesia to have the fifth-highest level of stunting in the world and in this region, stunting is the most common form of malnutrition that is found since birth.
Now let’s look at a real life example of what stunting in children can look like in Indonesia…
Two 32-month-old twin girls named Zahra and Zohra, living in a village called Pandes, Indonesia were born prematurely and they weighed 1.6 and 2.1 kg, respectively. They have continued to struggle to get to a healthy weight even to this day. In these girls’ case, the lack of breastfeeding contributed to their stunting and poor nutrition. When the twins were four months old, their father was hospitalized for over a month after being in a serious motorcycle accident and was unable to work for the next six months. With the burden of this situation and trying to take care of her prematurely born twins, the mother stopped breastfeeding the twin girls. Instead, she fed them with formula milk and the twins still fail to meet the weight and height expectations for their age and continue to remain underweight.
It has been shown that breastfeeding is critical in addressing all forms of malnutrition and protects children from being stunted. UNICEF recommends exclusive breastfeeding up until the age of six months and to then continue with breast-feeding supplementary food. Breast milk has sufficient nutrients for babies, so the mother essentially does not need to feed their baby anything else for the first six months. Additionally, the amount of breast-feeding in Indonesia is not nearly as high as it should be at only 54.3% nationally. Breastfeeding, however, is not the only factor associated with stunting, and is just one of the factors that we will focus on in this post.
Children who are stunted are also faced with various consequences later on in life. Stunted children are found to have a lower productivity rate by 20% than children who don’t suffer from stunting. Stunting during early childhood can also lead to higher risks for chronic diseases, delayed cognitive development and reduced academic achievement in the future.
Now, so stunting in children seems like a pretty big issue in Indonesia right? What is the government and the health system doing about it though? Can this burden on the country go on?
Fortunately the government of Indonesia has been piloting a multi-dimensional approach to address the stunting problem. It aims to improve awareness about feeding practices and the prevention of illness, as well as the access to necessary health care services and proper nutrition. However, as you can see, the problem is still very great, especially with the vast number of children still suffering from stunting, and there needs to be more done about the issue because it has only recently been addressed. What are some other ways that can help Indonesia combat stunting in children?
Written by Hannah Jin
Early Successes in Indonesia’s Fight Against Stunting. (n.d.). Retrieved December 05, 2016, from https://www.mcc.gov/our-impact/story/story-early-successes-in-indonesias-fight-against-stunting
McAuliffe, A. (2016, March 28). Double burden: Childhood stunting and obesity in Indonesia – UNICEF East Asia & Pacific. Retrieved December 05, 2016, from https://blogs.unicef.org/east-asia-pacific/double-crisis-the-dual-burden-of-stunting-and-obesity-in-indonesia/