Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Women who are underweight and anemic during pregnancy are more likely to have stunted children, perpetuating the inter-generational transmission of stunting.

Iron deficiency anemia and poor maternal nutrition during pregnancy and breastfeeding may increase the risk of preterm delivery or low birth weight baby and lead to stunted growth of the child.

In Indonesia, at least two million pregnant women are at risk of iron deficiency anemia, a condition in which they do not have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to their tissues.

According to Hamam Hadi, a nutritionist from Gajah Mada University (UGM) in Yogyakarta, there are 1,933,862 women, or 37 percent of a total 5,212,568 pregnant women in Indonesia, who suffer from anemia, based on the latest data of basic medical research.

Hamam stressed the need for pregnant women to increase their intake of nutrients to prevent stunted growth in their children, as the growth of a child begins right in the womb and continues until he or she turns two years old.

He also added that mothers and pregnant women are expected to increase their nutritional intake, as they are most vulnerable to malnutrition in Indonesia.

He also added that the increase in parenting knowledge and awareness on health and nutrition among family members can prevent the incidence of stunting in children.

According to Hamam, stunting is caused not only by a lack of nutrition due to poverty but also an error in the upbringing of children in the family.

Many parents who skip breastfeeding and provide complementary feeding to their babies are less aware of the fact that the lack of right parenting leads to stunting.

Therefore, it is important for parents to boost their knowledge on nutrition and good parenting in the family to avoid stunting.

The primary cause of stunting is an insufficient intake of calories and/or micro nutrients to support the normal growth processes during gestation and childhood.

Many of the underlying causes of poor nutrition are often related to environmental and economic conditions, such as poor air quality, infections from poor sanitation, limited access to nutritious foods and so on.

Indonesian children are still at risk of stunted growth due to the excessive nutritional deficiency and poor health conditions. Poor sanitation is also another reason, as about 52 million people in Indonesia practice open defecation.

Child mortality rates can be brought down using simple solutions with minimal costs, which include expanding the reach of immunization, supplementing vitamin A, exclusive breastfeeding and providing appropriate treatment for common diseases.

Providing oral re-hydration or electrolyte fluid and iron for diarrhea, and the use of new vaccines that have not been introduced in Indonesia so far can reduce mortality rate in the long term.

In addition, UNICEF noted that the progress in reducing maternal mortality has been slower, as an estimated 17,000 women still lose their lives every year due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth.

Many infants are left unprotected against disease because of low rates of breastfeeding -- less than half of Indonesian children are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life.

It is necessary to ensure that mothers understand the long-term benefits of the importance of breastfeeding for the survival and development of their children.

Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of an infants life can not only improve their future growth and educational achievement but also significantly reduce national health costs and help prevent chronic malnutrition.

According to some studies, breast milk provides the ideal nutrition for infants, because it has a nearly perfect mix of vitamins, protein, and fat -- everything the baby needs to grow.

Breast milk contains antibodies that help a baby fight off viruses and bacteria. Breastfeeding also lowers a babys risk of having asthma or allergies.

Moreover, only 37 per cent of children aged between 6 and 23 months are breastfed according to recommended practices.

Many Indonesians also lack another key protection for their children -- the right to an identity. Only around 57 per cent of children under age 5 have an official birth certificate.

Mothers are also at risk of deaths during pregnancy and childbirth, which are preventable.

While the number of women receiving antenatal care has increased in recent years, more than half of all deliveries still take place at home, without specialist facilities on hand to deal with complications.

More needs to be done to improve standards of care, in both public and private sector facilities and among health care workers.

While Indonesia has set a goal of three-quarters of children up to the age of 6 benefiting from early childhood education, today, less than half of these children have no access to such services.

Early childhood education is recognized as vital for a childs overall growth and development and improves their preparedness for school later in life.


Reporter: Otniel Tamindael
Editor: Jafar M Sidik
Copyright © ANTARA 2016