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Indonesia shifted to counter widespread malnutrition JAKARTA - The Indonesian government has launched a series of measures recently to tackle the growing incidence of malnutrition affecting thousands of under-fives in half a dozen provinces. Last Saturday, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono initiated the so-called Community Self-Help Month and National Health Week, promising 150 billion rupiahs (about 16 million US dollars) to revive the Integrated Health Services Posts (Posyandu) originally established by the Soeharto regime and to further empower Community Health Centers.

According to Minister of Health Siti Fadilah Supari, the money will be used mainly to reactivate the Posyandu and provide medication and nutrition supplements to children at risk from malnutrition. Meanwhile, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said on Tuesday that it will provide Indonesia with 15 million US dollars in financial assistance to overcome malnutrition among certain segments of the population and improve public nutrition in general. The picture that has emerged in recent weeks is certainly worth the above efforts.

Images of emaciated children with bloated stomachs have been appearing on local media almost every day. However, these images are only tips of the iceberg as more malnourished Indonesian children in Papua, East and West Nusa Tenggara, Central Java and even Jakarta, are still facing the problem by themselves. Local health office recently disclosed that the number of children who have died because of malnutrition in East Nusa Tenggara Province, one of the country's rice bowls, since January this year has reached 32.

Local media attributed the cause of widespread malnutrition to poverty, lack of jobs as well as the sluggish economy that always fails to support the national health care system. Supari once admitted that malnutrition is widespread in the country as 60 percent of the some 200,000 Posyandu nationwide are currently not functioning. "The fact that these Posyandu are not working has weakened the monitoring of public nutrition levels, which in turn has led to widespread malnutrition in the country," he said.

The financial crisis in 1997 and government neglect have been blamed for the problems currently facing the Posyandu. The nation has paid a high price for this in the form of widespread malnutrition. The Posyandu program, established under President Soeharto, was regarded at the time as being highly successful as it managed to reduce the number of children with malnutrition and the rate of infection by various diseases, such as polio.

Basic medical examinations for mothers and children were provided on a regular basis. The Posyandu were found not only in rural areas, but also in major cities around the country, including Jakarta.



Posted in General @ 22 June 2005 13:42 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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