Partnership between Government of Indonesia, UNICEF, and the European Union helping tackle nutrition challenges for children
Jakarta, 29 October 2012. A wide-ranging partnership between the Government of Indonesia, UNICEF and the European Union to tackle nutrition problems amongst the nation’s children is showing signs of important progress.
The three partners are pooling financial and technical resources to address worrying levels of stunting amongst Indonesian children – when children are too short for their age – and other nutrition-related issues.
Over the last year, nearly 500 health workers, midwives, nutritionists and community volunteers have benefited from special training that enables them to better understand the causes of stunting and under-nutrition and take steps to help families care for their children more effectively.
Community action has also been supported, with villages in Central Java and East Nusa Tenggara provinces supported to allocate additional budget and implement activities to improve sanitation, promote better breastfeeding and complementary feeding and monitoring of children’s nutritional status as part of their local development plans.
Nutrition education is being integrated to the government’s Conditional Cash Transfer programme (PKH), which provides cash assistance to the poorest families in return for their participation in health and education initiatives. Considerable work has been undertaken to enhance guidelines, standards and training materials for management of acute malnutrition, facilitate breastfeeding and complementary feeding and improve micronutrient programmes.
“We know that improved nutrition can become a reality if everyone in society is aware of good nutrition behaviours and empowered to put them into practice. This is especially important among the most vulnerable families who often get overlooked,” said UNICEF Representative to Indonesia Ms. Angela Kearney. “Tackling stunting in particular has important consequences for Indonesia’s long term economic and development prospects, as children will perform better in school, grow up to be healthier, and thus play a more constructive role in their community as adults.”
Dr Minarto, Director of Nutrition at Indonesia’s Ministry of Health also underlined the critical policy shifts that the partnership was helping to bring about.
“Indonesia is a leading player in the global Scaling Up Nutrition initiative, and through this collaboration we have established key networks of government ministries, UN agencies, international donors, non-government organizations and the private sector that will help oversee better targeting of resources, improved programme responses and key policy reforms to enhance nutrition for our children,” Dr Minarto said.
Speaking for the European Union, which has contributed €20 million (US$245 million) to UNICEF to tackle under-nutrition across the Asia-Pacific region, Mr. Erik Habers, Head of Operations of the EU Delegation to Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam and ASEAN underlined that reducing malnutrition was a top priority, affirming that the EU had great engagement in the global fight against malnutrition and the coordination mechanism for the Scaling Up Nutrition initiative. Mr. Habers noted that the EU has also increased direct funding to fight under- nutrition in Asia, Latin America and Africa, and since 2008 the EU had contributed more than €650 million to nutrition interventions.
In Indonesia, the partnership’s attention is focused on the provinces of East Nusa Tenggara, Central Java and Papua, aimed at reaching 3.8 million children and 800,000 pregnant and nursing women through improved nutrition programmes and better knowledge of healthy feeding practices. Stunting affects more than 1 in 3 children below the age of five in Indonesia, while nearly 1 in 5 children in this age group are underweight.
Improving the skills of health workers, better targeting of resources, and strengthening basic knowledge of simple behaviours such as exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a child’s life, and appropriate complementary feeding practices thereafter, are known to reduce the risks of poor nutrition and contribute to reductions in child mortality.
Infant and under-5 mortality rates in Indonesia half halved since 1990, but latest reports indicate that as many as 134,000 children under the age of five still die each year across the country, mostly due to health and nutrition-related causes.