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With U.S. Support, Indonesia Tackles Child Malnutrition
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is poised to sign a five-year Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact with Indonesia—the first such compact to include a nutrition component, “Community-Based Nutrition to Reduce Stunting.”
More than 35 percent of Indonesia’s babies and toddlers under age 2 are stunted, meaning they have a highly visible sign of malnutrition--being significantly shorter than average children of their age. There is growing global attention to this age group, often called the 1,000 day window between pregnancy and age 2, because the consequences of malnutrition for such young children are death for some and lifelong, largely irreversible damage to the health and development of those who survive. A higher risk of death in infancy and early childhood, increased susceptibility to infection and illness, and impaired cognitive abilities caused by early nutritional deficiencies have been well documented in a growing body of scientific evidence, dating to 2006 with the Copenhagen Consensus and followed by studies done by the World Bank and by a series of studies by the respected medical journal The Lancet. Research has also found that survivors of early childhood malnutrition complete fewer years of school and are less productive on the job, which causes countries long-term economic loss.
The 1,000 Days Partnership, on which Bread has reported previously, champions new investments and partnerships to improve nutrition during this critical period. Indonesia recognized that taking action against malnutrition during the 1,000-day window must be a top national priority. Its five-year national development plan called for a program of prevention.
Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world, with more than 140 million people living on less than $2 a day. The country’s high prevalence of stunting is a legacy of a health service delivery system that lacks capacity at the local level. The Community-Based Nutrition to Reduce Stunting project will work with communities and health systems to “strengthen the demand for and supply of appropriate services to reduce chronic malnutrition among children.” Designed with the participation of local governments, civil society, and the private sector, it will build on an existing program that involves communities in taking action to improve targeted health, education, and nutrition indicators. Stunting will be reduced by strengthening community engagement, nutrition and sanitation services delivery, and national awareness and advocacy. The project proposes to reach 1.4 million beneficiaries in rural Indonesia.
The MCC administers Millennium Challenge Account funding. Back in 2002, Bread members were instrumental in persuading Congress to establish the program, which makes multi-year grants to promote inclusive economic growth that reduces poverty. To qualify for MCC funds, countries must be low-income or lower-middle-income (meaning that their per capita incomes are less than about $4,000 a year), and they must satisfy set criteria such as investing in the well-being of their people and fighting corruption.
Bread for the World Institute has long been a champion of increased focus on improving maternal and child nutrition. In our 2009 briefing paper, New Hope for Malnourished Mothers and Children, the Institute noted that the Millennium Challenge Corporation was under-investing in nutrition—especially given the importance of nutrition to economic growth. We are encouraged by Indonesia’s plan for this compact and applaud MCC for taking this important step forward. We look for additional countries to improve nutrition outcomes, especially in pregnant women and children.
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