First Posted 17:41:00 07/07/2008
JAKARTA -- A decline in breastfeeding practice in Indonesia is one of the primary causes of the rise in child malnutrition in the country, a UN official said.
Head of the health and nutrition section at Unicef Indonesia, Anne H. Vincent, said that in 2007 only 7.2 percent of children in the country were breastfed exclusively until the age of six months, from 7.8 percent in 2002. On average, Indonesian children are breastfed exclusively for less than two months.
The UN body has found one in every four children in the country suffers from malnutrition. Regions in Indonesia have reported deaths of children due to malnutrition. From January to June this year, some 31 malnutrition-related deaths of children under the age of five were reported in East Nusa Tenggara, 20 in West Nusa Tenggara, 10 in Lebak, Banten, and five in Bone, South Sulawesi.
Vincent said the primary cause of malnutrition was poor infant feeding practices, like inadequate breastfeeding and complementary feeding.
According to a Unicef review of data from 42 countries, exclusive breastfeeding proved to have the highest impact (13 percent) on saving lives of children under the age of five.
"Exclusive breastfeeding for six months can save more than 30,000 Indonesian children from dying each year," Vincent said recently.
Malnourished children are more prone to infectious diseases such as diarrhea and upper respiratory infections.
Barriers to breastfeeding in Indonesia include low awareness of the benefits due to inadequate counseling and support. For working mothers, a lack of supporting facilities such as designated space in the workplace for breastfeeding and adequate maternity leave to support six months of exclusive breastfeeding also hinders the program.
While breastfeeding rates are declining, sales of infant formula have nearly doubled in the last five years.
According to Vincent, aggressive marketing of breastmilk substitutes by companies is another challenge for the breastfeeding campaign.
International code on breastmilk substitute marketing bans promotional campaigns for the products. In Indonesia this ban is regulated under a 1997 ministerial decree. A legislative draft on breastmilk substitute marketing is still being discussed.
The Association of Baby Food Producers' head of government relations and Frisian Flag director Hendro H. Poedjono said the association had set up a team to monitors violations.
He said the team had handed down sanctions to members that broke regulations. "Every month around one or two members are sanctioned," he said.
He said promotions for breastmilk substitutes sometimes were conducted by retailers, not producers.
"Supermarkets sometimes have their own policies, they organize promotions, or offer discounts on certain products, including infant formula, without our knowledge," he said. Prodita Sabarini, The Jakarta Post-ANN