In this seminar, Mr Zack Petersen delves deep into the issue of childhood stunting in Indonesia. Factors such as poverty, chronic infection caused by malnutrition and an overall lack of sanitation causes stunting in 1 in 3 Indonesian children, yet there remains a general lack of understanding surrounding the issue.
REGIONAL ECONOMIC STUDIES PROGRAMME SEMINAR
Friday, 13 March 2020 – ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute invited Mr Zack Petersen, the lead strategist for the 1000 Days Fund to discuss the issue of childhood stunting in Indonesia. Although childhood stunting has recently begun to receive greater public attention in Indonesia, Mr Petersen argued that there remains a general lack of understanding surrounding the issue.
Mr Petersen prefaced the seminar with a brief description about the problem of childhood stunting in Indonesia. In 2018, Indonesia’s national average stunting rate was 31%. Eastern Indonesia in particular, also the area where Mr Petersen and his team are working in, had a stunting rate of 43%. Stunted children stand to lose 10 IQ points and are 10 times more likely to be sick. Hence, Mr Petersen feels an urgent need for cost-effective interventions.
Under the 1000 Days Fund Program, 12,000 height charts and 65 village health facilities are installed across 24 islands. Upon installation of height charts at home, 64% of mothers reported a change in parenting behaviour. Height charts are packed with essential information which helps parents to visualise and understand the growth of their children.
Additionally, 500 frontline health workers have been deployed. Checks are performed at homes to ensure that there is access to a toilet, soap in the toilet and whether mothers do breast feeding. Mr Peterson added that having access to clean water is indispensable. Nevertheless, this is a common problem across Indonesia. For instance, a village that he visited may have 5 wells, but only one of them could provide water that is fit for consumption.
Mr Petersen highlighted that the Indonesian government, in particular the officers in local clinics (Puskesmas) and Integrated Service Post (Posyandu), has been the front-liners for health issues and the backbone of the health system in rural areas. He praised them for doing the best they could to alleviate the problems of childhood stunting such as via distributing pink health booklets to educate the parents. However, the officers in Puskesmas and cadres in Posyandu were short of knowledge and capacity in dealing with the issue. Therefore, he suggested for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to contribute by facilitating a sustainable health program which the government can adopt into its existing program.
The seminar concluded with Mr Petersen engaging in a question and answer session. One participant sought Mr Petersen’s opinion on the barriers to mothers doing breastfeeding and its impact on stunting. Another participant inquired if there is a specific profile of participants he is targeting for his program. Mr Petersen also responded to a range of questions such as the effectiveness, and the role of social media in his program as well as the differences between Indonesia and Cambodia in terms of childhood stunting.