We are now addressing the problem of malnutrition in the community. This is a new project we started in early 2008 and one that is extremely important. If we want to improve the overall well being of the community, with the end goal being for our neighbors to have the ability to be more productive, then we must find solutions to all of the problems facing those living in the coastal regions of the island.
Malnutrition is the result of marginal dietary intake compounded by infection. In turn, marginal dietary intake is caused by household food insecurity, lack of clean water, lack of knowledge on good sanitation, and lack of alternative sources of income. It is also compounded by inadequate care, gender inequality, poor health services, and poor environment. While income is not the sum of total of people’s lives, health status as reflected by levels of malnutrition is.
In Sumba a staggering percentage of children and adults are undernourished or malnourished. The island has the unfortunate distinction of being one of the poorest in Indonesia with a history of abject poverty, crop failure and famine. It is estimated that more than half of the Sumbanese children under the age of five suffer from malnutrition and anemia due to poor diets, thus making them more susceptible to malaria, tuberculosis and a wide variety of severe gastro-intestinal illnesses. The impact of anemia on children is debilitating. A mild case can impair intellectual development and can lower a child’s IQ by between 10 and 15 points.
Signs of undernourished and malnourished children are visible everywhere. A quick look around in any school and you will see children with visible signs of stunted growth. In a recent survey at the Anakaka School we found that 202 children out of 258 are severely malnourished, this is a staggering number! In the Villages it’s the same however there we are also finding children too weak to attend school and some of who are near death.
The problem stems from the protein poor Sumbanese diet, the shortage of food in the region and the parent’s lack of knowledge. They do not understand the causes and consequences of a poor diet and they do not recognize the warning signs of malnourishment, nor do they know what to do about it.
We have developed a teaching program that focuses on Nutrition education. This program is now being taught in all eight of the schools we support. We also take direct intervention in the most critical cases. Mothers are taught about nutritious food and how to cook healthy meals for their children. They are given powdered milk, eggs and vegetables for up to six months until the child recovers. Every week our staff monitor the child’s progress until they have fully recovered.
US$1000 is all it takes to give 10 children a new start on life
US$2500 will sponsor the staff for this program one full year
We have one very qualified staff (she completed medical school) who is dedicated to helping make a change for her community. Every day Rainy and her assistant is teaching nutrition classes at the schools and in the afternoons she is in the villages feeding and monitoring the critically malnourished children. If this project interests you please consider sponsoring her important work.