Addressing the stunting problem has become a priority national program to prepare a golden generation for onward Indonesia
Jakarta (ANTARA) - President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has made the health and development of Indonesia’s human resources, especially children, as one of the priorities of his second-term five-year administration that will end in 2024.

Investment in human resources is not just regarding education but also medical care, because the health of a person helps him to realize his potential optimally, besides the ability to fight illness. During the first plenary meeting of the Indonesia Onward Cabinet 2019-2024 on October 24, 2019, President Widodo ordered the newly appointed Health Minister Terawan Agus to reduce the cases of stunting among Indonesian children.

The stunting rate in Indonesia has been reduced to 27.67 percent this year, 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.

Related news: Indonesian health minister ordered to reduce stunting among children

Currently, child stunting has been observed in several provinces, including East Nusa Tenggara and East Java.

This condition among children under the age of five is a reflection of Indonesia’s future. The issue is now a government priority, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani had once said.

Therefore, the government has prioritized the issue to prepare a golden generation for onward Indonesia.

"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. The stunting rate is now still fluctuating," Coordinating Minister for Human Development and Culture Muhadjir Effendy said in a statement November 1, 2019.

Effendy is planning to set up a special task force involving several relevant ministries to deal with the stunting problem in the country.

He preferred to see the facts in the field and hold a dialog with medical doctors and paramedics to get firsthand information about stunting before finding the solution, the minister said.

Effendy was informed by several doctors that stunting is not just a problem of malnutrition and the condition of babies during their first 1,000 days, but is also caused by poor sanitation.

"This input will become the foundation in formulating policy at the national level," he said.

Related news: Government targets seven percent reduction in stunting rate: Amin

Sanitation development is the responsibility of the Public Works and Public Housing Ministry, which is under the Coordinating Minister for Maritime and Investment Affairs, he remarked.

Therefore, for the improvement of public sanitation, he will coordinate with the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime and Investment Affairs.

Vice President Ma'ruf Amin has also spoken of the government’s target to lower the country's stunting rate by seven percent to reach 20 percent or in line with the World Health Organization (WHO) threshold recommendation.

"We want to further reduce the current 27 percent to 20 as per WHO standards. Hence, we have to cut it by seven percent," Amin stated during a visit to a community health center (Puskesmas) in Pecatu Village, Bali, on October 31, 2019.

The government's efforts until now were sufficiently effective, he admitted. It has been seeking innovative ways to prevent stunting and lowering the rate in the country.

"Hence, it is about dealing with stunting among teenagers, from pre-marriage to marriage age, and during pregnancy. Intervention since an early age is necessary to reduce stunting. If possible, stunting must be eliminated," he stated.

Lauding the Bali government's success in lowering the stunting rate to 16 percent, he said that Bali should become a role model for other regions.

During his working visit, Amin was accompanied by Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto and the Health Ministry's Director General for Public Health Kirana Pritasari.

To combat the problem, pregnant mothers and children under the age of two need to simultaneously access key services. These services include basic immunization, breastfeeding, dietary diversity, drinking water and sanitation, early childhood education, food insecurity measurements where they live, and a birth certificate to make sure they are in the system.

Stunting – the failure to reach one’s potential for growth – is caused by chronic malnutrition and repeated illness during childhood. It can permanently limit a child’s physical and cognitive capacity and cause lifelong damage.

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).

Stunting is a global problem and although important progress has been made to reduce it, stunting is declining too slowly and levels remain unacceptably high.

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

Related news: Coordinating Minister to form task force to deal with stunting
Related news: Government targets reducing stunting prevalence to 19 percent in 2024

Editor: Sri Haryati
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