It is not a secret that breast milk is the golden standard of nutrition for newborn babies, up until they are at least 2 years old. However, by 2013, only 38 percent of Indonesian babies were breast-fed. Exclusive breast-feeding is one of the most important factors for development in a child’s first 1,000 days of life. This sensitive stage is also one of the determining factors of their physical well-being in the future. But how can 1,000 days make such a significant difference?
The first 1,000 days start from the moment of conception until the child’s second birthday and will affect their health for many years to come. Well-fed children can grow healthier, smarter, and brighter with better living opportunities than those who are malnourished.
The period consists of four stages in which the child can receive the best possible nutrition. The first is Pregnancy and requires appropriate prenatal care for the mothers-to-be, including a balanced diet, regular check-ups and a healthy lifestyle. Next is the Breast-feeding stage, with immediate skin to skin contact between a mother and her newborn baby within the first hour of giving birth. Breast-feeding has been proven to have many long-lasting benefits and can even prevent obesity. Third, is the Weaning stage, during which the child is introduced to solid foods at six months.
The first 1,000 days conclude with the Toddlers stage, a crucial time when the child begins to communicate, walk and form his or her own personality. The lack of proper care can lead to malnutrition, wasting (acute malnutrition) or stunting. The latter occurs when a child fails to meet the average height standard of his or her age group. In very severe cases, children can suffer both wasting and stunting. Without adequate support, these deficits can lead to degenerative illnesses and even result in death.
The World Health Organization has established the tolerable stunting rate of a country at 20 percent of its children’s population, with 40 percent or more considered high prevalence. According to 2013 data, 37.2 percent of Indonesian children under the age of five suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition. The condition affects some 8.8 million children worldwide.
As a child-focused organization, Wahana Visi Indonesia created the nationwide campaign Aksi Gizi, or Nutrition Action, to help educate parents on how to provide their children with the best possible nutrition. WVI is actively encouraging teachers, parents and grandparents across the country to join the movement through the world wide web by using the hashtag #AksiGizi. The online campaign will culminate in an event at the National Monument complex in Central Jakarta on Sunday, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., where specialists will be ready to offer information on nutrition and breast-feeding.
A giant labyrinth will guide visitors through the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, while a health talk show can provide answers to all of a parents’ questions. The public campaign will also provide free counseling on lactation, free check-ups, baby massages and information booklets. With fun games and entertainment, the Aksi Gizi gathering is suitable for the whole family.
WVI has since 1995 provided support to the most vulnerable and underprivileged pockets of Indonesian society, dedicated to improving the lives of children nationwide. The organization’s programs involve education, health, child protection and children’s rights. One of its most effective campaigns is the Nutrition Garden, which has been implemented in 12 districts across the country, from Nias, North Sumatra, to North Central Timor in East Nusa Tenggara.
The home gardening project has helped provide food for families living in remote areas while also acting as an additional source of income. “We used to buy vegetables in the city and the transportation fee is more costly than the price of the vegetables. Ever since we learned to plant high-nutrition fruits and vegetables in our own yard,” said Sadieli Waruwu of Ononamolo in Nias, a father of five and a participant of the program. “Villagers here no longer buy vegetables. Instead, we become vegetable vendors for neighboring villages.”
For more information on Wahana Visi Indonesia’s programs and the Aksi Gizi campaign, follow @WahanaVisi_ID on Twitter and visit bit.ly/wvi2015.