Fighting Malnutrition with Education

Thursday, April 27, 2017


Photo by: Sumandari

Juxtaposed next to luxurious world-class resorts on the island of Sumba lives a population plagued by extreme poverty and poor health. Among the poorest islands in Indonesia, over 30% of Sumba’s population lives on less than $1.25 day. That is less than $500 per year, and less than half the nightly rate of the cheapest room at the resorts in their own backyard. The locals are mostly subsistence farmers, and food insecurity due to poverty, drought, and poor soil quality make feeding their families a daily struggle.


As a result of chronic food shortages, more than 60% of children under 5 are underweight or suffer from severe malnutrition or stunting.


For many families, SurfAid’s approach is highly effective. For others though, a more intensive approach is needed.


Consequently, SurfAid recently implemented Nutrition Education Rehabilitation Sessions (NERS) in Sumba for children who were extremely underweight. The mothers and caretakers attended 7 consecutive days of intensive coaching on topics including nutrition and hygiene. Specifically, attendees learned that sufficient energy and nutrient intake requires good care and feeding practices; food preparation that enhances nutritious benefits; diversity in the diet; and intra-household distribution of food to ensure that despite patriarchal norms, nutrition for children is prioritized.


Photo by: Yohannes

Of the 21 undernourished children whose mothers attended NERS, 17 of them (81%) gained weight (200 to 2,000 grams or 0.5 to 4.5 pounds) within 2 weeks.

Additionally, SurfAid staff and volunteers coached the mothers and caregivers on child rearing, and encouraged regular check-ups both at home and at the community health posts to track growth and implement early interventions where necessary.


SurfAid’s efforts contributed to a reduction in underweight children under 5 from 32% to 28% in less than a year. This is remarkable, as expected results for targeted communities are usually a reduction of 1% each year.


With your help, SurfAid is teaching parents how to fight malnutrition, and giving children in Sumba a healthy shot at a bright future.


Photo by: Meitty