Incumbent President Joko Widodo ordered Health Minister Terawan Agus to reduce stunting among Indonesian children, at the first plenary meeting of the Indonesia Onward Cabinet 2019-2024 here on Thursday.
Speaking to journalists after attending the cabinet meeting, Agus said he would soon coordinate with his subordinates at the Health Ministry to receive detailed reports about the stunting problem.
“Well, the root causes of this stunting problem are complex. So, we need to coordinate with those from the upper to lower levels to deal with it,” he said, adding that improving the public health condition would help resolve the problem of children with stunted growth.
Agus said he should thoroughly learn about the issues, and needs to hold meetings to enable him to appropriately respond to the problem.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), children with stunted growth are those whose “height-for-age is more than two standard deviations below the WHO Child Growth Standards median.”
The prevalence of stunting in Indonesia could have been reduced to 27.67 percent this year or lower than that of 2018, which was recorded at 30.8 percent.
The Indonesian Government has set a target of reducing the country’s incidents of stunting to below 20 percent by 2024.
At present, stunting among children has been seen in many provinces, including East Nusa Tenggara and East Java.
The East Nusa Tenggara provincial government has been working hard to reduce stunting among children, and Governor Viktor B. Laiskodat has been acting to combat stunting with the district and city administrations and related stakeholders.
The prevalence of stunting in the province had reached a staggering 42.46 percent in 2018, or surpassed Indonesia’s national level of 30.8 percent.
“Fighting childhood stunting is our priority,” he said, when speaking last August.
To tackle this problem, the government has been engaging parties tasked with handling health, food security, clean water and sanitation, poverty alleviation, and education, Laiskodat stated.
Furthermore, the government had directed ongoing nutritional interventions through the provision of more nutritionally dense foods to targeted infants. Pregnant local women were also provided nutrient-rich foods, made of Moringa oleifera, during their visits to health centers, he remarked.
According to ANTARA’s observations in Lamongan District, East Java, for instance, cases of stunted growth in children are still reported in the villages of Ganggangtingan and Durikedungjero.
In Ganggangtingan Village, eight children experienced stunted growth, while the number of stunted children in Durikedungjero Village reached 10.
However, the Lamongan district government has outlined a target of achieving zero stunting by 2020 by pushing for greater eating of fish among the local children to improve their nutrition, beginning in early childhood.
To this end, the district government has worked tirelessly to curb stunted growth among children under the age of five. Last year, the prevalence of stunting in Lamongan was recorded at 14 percent, Lamongan District Head Fadeli stated here on Wednesday.
Apart from the provincial and district governments’ efforts to fight childhood stunting, this problem has posed a significant challenge to incumbent President Joko Widodo’s drive to improve the quality of Indonesia’s human resources, in the midst of strong competition among nations in the digital era.