Ma’ruf Amin:“We need to work together against stunting among children”

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Vice President of RI Ma’Ruf Amin. (Photo: Doc. SETNEG RI)

IO – Vice President Ma’ruf Amin calls for efforts to prevent stunting among our children to continue amid the COVID-19 pandemic. One of these efforts that should continue is the Integrated Health Service Post (Pos Pelayanan Terpadu – “Posyandu”) activities geared towards pregnant and nursing mothers and children. “Despite our struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, we must still execute the necessary programs and activities to prevent stunting,” Ma’ruf said during the online National Technical Coordination Meeting for Accelerating Stunting Prevention held on Wednesday (21/10/2020).

Data from the Ministry of Health shows a sharp decrease in the fre- quency and volume of Posyandu visits by mothers and children be- cause of the pandemic. We cannot allow this condition to continue, be- cause it affects the growth and de- velopment rates of our children – as well as the achievement of the Gov- ernment’s stunting prevention tar- get. “Therefore, we need innovative efforts from Regional Governments in order to ensure that the people can still receive the health services that they need – all while strictly complying with health protocols,” Ma’ruf said.

Ma’ruf further expresses the need for preventing stunting together in order to prevent having weak new generations as our heirs. “When I say ‘weak’ here it’s not just in terms of religious comprehen-sion, piety, and faith, but also in terms of health, education, and economic levels. Therefore, I reiterate that we need to prevent stunting together,” he said.

In 2019, the Ministry of Health found that 27.7% or 6.5 million toddlers in Indonesia suffer from stunting due to prolonged malnu- trition. Therefore, the Government sets the target of reducing the rate of stunting among our children from the current 27.7% down to 14% by 2024. “We don’t want the number of stunted children to rise again in the next few years due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ma’ruf said. “The high number of Indonesian toddlers suf-fering from stunting is a grave con-cern. This affects the quality of our nation’s future generations. Stunt-ed children will have lower cogni-tive abilities, higher vulnerability to uncommunicable diseases, and lower productivity as adults. We as a country and nation will suffer set- backs in the long term if we don’t mitigate this.”

Badly Targeted

Ma’ruf went on to say that stunt- ing prevention programs have many participants: Ministries and national agencies, Regional Governments all the way down to village-level govern- ment. This many participants cause these programs to be badly targeted and inefficient. Therefore, the execu- tion of these programs must be in- tegrated between agencies and governments. “There are already many programs and activities funded by various budgetary sources to prevent stunting meant to be implemented in the regions, even down to village level. However, our challenge is how to ensure that all of these programs, with funding allocated from ministry, national agency, or Regional Govern- ment budgets, or from other sources, can be integrated effectively in the target areas,” he said.

The Vice President then said that stunting prevention can be performed using either of two means: First, spe- cific nutrition intervention. Second, sensitive nutrition intervention. The first model is related to the improve- ment of nutrition and health, while the second model mitigates the issue through supporting components such the provision of clean water and sani- tation facilities.

“Specialized literature shows that sensitive nutrition intervention con- tributes more to the reduction of stunting, about 70%. Stunting pre- vention must be performed using both specific and sensitive nutrition intervention within the first 1,000 days of life. Ensuring proper nutrition during this period is crucial for ensuring that the child grow and develop properly, because this is when all of the bodily organs are formed, grown, and developed,” he said. “However, a region frequently only receives one in- tervention program to prevent stunt- ing, while comprehensive prevention requires two simulta¬neous interven- tion programs. This is because too many ministries and agencies work on the same issue and lack coordina- tion. They – the regions – receive one program focusing on specific nutri- tion intervention from one ministry, agency, or government, but not one focusing on sensitive nutrition inter- vention provided by another ministry, agency, or government.”

Ma’ruf further stated that convergence or integration of intervention programs to prevent stunting by min- istries, agencies, and governments is necessary so that the people can re- ceive benefits comprehensively, thus reducing the prevalence of stunting. “Reducing the prevalence of stunting will be effective if a region receives a complete program. ‘Convergence’ is easy to say but not to do. It requires strong effort from all of us. All of the ministries, agencies, and govern- ments involved in this effort should eliminate their sectoral egos and co- operate for the sake of the people, be- cause convergence requires the coop- eration of everyone involved,” he said. (Dan)