Saturday, January 30, 2021

Eye on human capital, Indonesia ramps up fight against stunting by Fardah

Jakarta, January 30, 2021 (Antara) -  The Joko Widodo administration has set human resource development as its priority program for the second presidential term from 2019-2024.

The targeted investment in human resources will not just cover education, but also medical care since good health helps people realize their potential and ward off illness.

One of the priority issues for the program involves grooming a healthy younger generation, or a golden generation, for “onward Indonesia”, a term that refers to Widodo’s ministerial line-up.

The government considers the current condition of children under the age of five as a reflection of Indonesia’s future. Hence, the administration is prioritizing drastically reducing stunting rate among Indonesian children.

Children with stunted growth “are those whose height-for-age is more than two standard deviations below the WHO Child Growth Standards median”, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Therefore, “addressing the stunting problem has become a priority national program to prepare a golden generation for onward Indonesia when Indonesia celebrates its centennial anniversary in 2045”, Coordinating Minister for Human Development and Culture, Muhadjir Effendy, said last year.

During the first plenary meeting of the Indonesia Onward Cabinet 2019-2024 on October 24, 2019, Widodo had ordered his Health Minister to reduce the incidence of stunting among Indonesian children.

Data shows the stunting rate in Indonesia dropped to 27.67 percent in 2019 from 30.8 percent in 2018. The government has outlined a target to reduce the prevalence in the country to under 20 percent by 2024, as per the United Nations target.

Stunting is a global problem and although important progress has been made to reduce it, its prevalence is declining too slowly, with levels remaining unacceptably high.

In April, 2019, United Nations agencies reported that 149 million children under five, or almost 22 percent of all children in the age range, were affected by the condition in 2018, which deprived many of the opportunity to achieve their full potential before they even reached school age.

In 2018, more than half of all stunted children under the age of five lived in Asia and more than one-third lived in Africa.

Owing to the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic, the problem is believed to have worsened.

Therefore, President Widodo has tasked the National Population and Family Planning Agency (BKKBN) with handling the prevention of stunting.

The BKKBN is considered competent for handling the stunting problem as the agency has experience overseeing the family planning and child nutrition programs at various "posyandu" (integrated health posts) across the country.

"BKKBN is in control of stunting prevention from now on," the President said at a briefing during the National Coordination Meeting for the Proud "Kencana" Program Partnership at the State Palace, on January 28, 2021.

Indonesia's stunting rate, recorded at 37 percent five years ago, declined to 27.6 percent in 2019, he noted and reiterated the national target to reduce the stunting rate to 14 percent by 2024.

The target would not be difficult to achieve if the program were to be managed optimally on the field, he emphasized.

Under the new mandate, the BKKBN will push ministries and institutions in consolidating the budget and programs for reducing the stunting rate.

"I emphasize that because the BKKBN has organizational infrastructure up to the grassroots level, it will be the executive chairman of the (stunting rate reduction) activities, and it will be coordinated by the coordinating minister for human development and culture," Widodo said.

At the meeting, the President lauded the BKKBN staff for their dedication in guiding and empowering communities in rural areas across the country.

“BKKBN’s position is so strategic for the future of our nation and state because families are the pillars of a state,” he affirmed.

Meanwhile, Minister Muhadjir Effendy said earlier that Indonesia should work hard to attain a national prevalence level of 14 percent in 2024.

President Widodo has formulated several measures to achieve the targeted stunting rate.

One of the measures that will be adopted by the BKKBN is optimizing the handling of Indonesian children with stunted growth amid the fact that 20 ministries and government agencies have set aside funds for handling the stunting rate.

President Widodo has also instructed regional administrations to map out stunting cases in their areas as the central and regional governments can use this to prepare detailed and effective response measures.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian government and the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) have signed the US$150-million Country Programme Action Plan (CPAP) for 2021-2025 to promote the welfare of Indonesian children.

The CPAP aims to support the development of children in various areas, including health, nutrition, water and sanitation, education, child protection, and social policy.

The cooperation with Unicef is expected to help the Indonesian government in achieving the main goal pertaining to children's welfare, which is to immediately reduce the stunting rate to 14 percent among children under the age of five and double the number of households using clean water to 15 percent.

“The government warmly welcomes the continuation of the cooperation program with Unicef that significantly contributes to achieving national priorities, particularly those related to children. The cooperation program will continue to produce various innovations that may serve as a leverage to speed up the attainment of development targets," Minister and chief of the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas), Suharso Monoarfa, noted recently.

The program is committed to realizing children's rights within the framework of implementing one of the visions of the National Medium-Term Development Plan (RPJMN) 2020-2024 to promote the development of human resources by 2024, he added.

The highest incidence of stunting in Indonesia has been seen in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) province, where the condition affects roughly 50 percent of the children.

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