Breastfeeding to minimize malnutrition in Indonesia

By Riva Lauritz

The World Food Programme (WFP) estimates 13 million children in Indonesia suffer from malnutrition. In some Indonesian districts about 50 percent of infants and young children are underweight. Poverty has been one of the biggest contributors of the increasing malnutrition among children in Indonesia. Millions of Indonesians cannot access to clean water and eat healthy food. With a population of 210 million Indonesia is the fourth largest country in the World. It ranks 111th on the Human Development Index scale of the UNDP. In 2002, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita was 3,230 USD. 27 % of the population lives under the national poverty line.

Besides poverty across the nation, the main reason of malnutrition among children in Indonesia is the poor feeding practices combined with the decline in breastfeeding which lead millions of children to die.The reasons for quitting breastfeeding so early are numerous. Poor knowledge and no facilities to express milk for working mothers are among the most important ones. Another reason why women stop breastfeeding and start using milk formula is the belief that formula is better than breast milk.

Flores, one of island in Indonesia suffers from one of the highest death rates in Indonesia for children under the age of five, particularly infants.The Indonesian Government estimates that some 30,000 young children could be saved if their mothers exclusively breastfed them for six months, then continued breastfeeding with supplemental foods until the age of two. According to the Indonesian Demographic and Health Survey from 2002 and 2003, only 14 per cent of infants in Indonesia are exclusively breastfed for their first five months of life. UNICEF and the government have launched a campaign with Indonesia’s First Lady Ani Bambang Yudhoyono in a leading role to promote exclusive breastfeeding.

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