KUPANG, NUSA TENGGARA TIMUR (NTT) – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the government of Indonesia today concluded a two-day conference in Kupang designed to spearhead the drive for improved nutrition across the country.
The conference brought together national, provincial and district officials, the private sector, local communities, and NGOs and UN agencies specialised in nutrition. Discussions focused on the critical window of opportunity in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life – between the start of pregnancy and a child’s second birthday – when proper nutrition is essential for optimal physical and intellectual development.
“Access to a nutritious and age-appropriate diet for under-twos and their mothers is of vital importance – especially in parts of the country where under-nutrition is recognised as a problem,” said WFP Indonesia Country Director Coco Ushiyama. “This will only be a reality when a wide range of public and private sector partners come together with a shared vision.”
Two key recent studies helped lead discussions. The Minimum Cost of a Nutritious Diet study is a joint effort of WFP, the Ministry of Health, the NTT provincial government and academia. It analyses the minimum cost of a diet that meets nutritional requirements in NTT, and East and Central Java, taking into account food availability, food prices, and its nutrient content. The study can be used to estimate the proportion of households that can or cannot afford an adequately nutritious diet in a particular area.
A second study – Behaviour Change Communication in TTS District – identified the main obstacles to appropriate feeding practices amongst pregnant and nursing mothers, and the nutrition challenges faced by under-twos and school children. These include limited knowledge of how to prepare a nutritious diet, as well as traditional beliefs and taboos around food consumption and child care practices.
“Improved nutrition in NTT – and especially in TTS district – must go beyond nutrition education, the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding, nutrition supplements and feeding programmes,” said Professor Hamam Hadi, Chairman of the Alma Ata Centre for Healthy Life and Food (ACHEAF). “We must also balance these initiatives with broader poverty reduction programmes, better provision of clean water and improved living conditions generally.”
In 2010, Indonesia was on track to halving the number of children who are underweight, a key nutrition-related target of the first Millennium Development Goal. However, 36 percent of children under-five in the country are stunted, or too short for their age. In some provinces such as NTT, as many as six in ten children is stunted.
Stunting has long-term implications for cognitive development, educational attainment and adult productivity, and children affected have a greater risk of suffering from non-communicable diseases being overweight in later adult life.
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