Parenting classes are helping parents in Dompu, West Nusa Tenggara, to raise healthier children. Child malnutrition rate in Dompu, a district in the island of Sumbawa, has been among the highest in Indonesia. (Photo courtesy of Plan International/ Irsyad Hadi)

Parenting Classes Help Reduce Child Malnutrition in Dompu

BY :ALIN ALMANAR

APRIL 16, 2016

Dompu, West Nusa Tenggara. Parenting classes initiated by humanitarian workers are helping parents in Dompu, West Nusa Tenggara, to raise healthier children.

Child malnutrition rates in Dompu, a district in the island of Sumbawa, are among the highest in Indonesia.

The prevalence of child malnutrition in this eastern province of over four million residents is estimated at 40 percent, above the national standard of around 25 percent, data from the government's health agency revealed.

Poverty, poor sanitation and maternal risk factors are the main causes of child malnutrition in the province.

Luckily, the situation is improving steadily, almost three years after humanitarian workers first came to Dompu, the district hardest hit by child malnutrition.

Dompu is home to more than 200,000 residents and according to a 2013 data, 17 percent of the children in the district were underweight. Being underweight is one of the four commonly used measures to detect child malnutrition.

This prompted humanitarian group Plan International to reactivate 61 integrated health services posts, locally known as Posyandu, across 12 villages in the hilly district, a 10-hour drive from the provincial capital Mataram.

"Posyandu have been here for a long time, we only changed their strategies," Marzalena Zaini, project manager with the UK-based organization, told the Jakarta Globe.

Plan International trained around 260 Posyandu workers and volunteers to establish 67 support groups which have been providing parenting classes and counseling for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers as well as babysitters.

More than 1,000 mothers have been taking the monthly classes, in which they can learn and ask questions about early initiation of breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding, complementary feeding and other recommended infant and child feeding practices.

"Before we started, parents came to Posyandu just to weigh their babies. They might be given some vitamins and porridge and that's it," Marzalena said.

Around two years since the support groups started the parenting classes, which according to Plan International data have reached out to more than 3,000 children, the number of underweight children in Dompu has declined by 12 percent.

The three other interrelated indicators of child malnutrition — stunted growth, wasting (thinness) and obesity — are expected to improve soon as well.

The parenting classes program may soon be adopted by other cities and districts across West Nusa Tenggara.

"The governor came to visit us late last year and was surprised by what we've done," said Hidayat, head of the Ranggo Posyandu in Dompu.

Plan International has run similar programs in the East Nusa Tenggara district of Sikka and now plans to move into other regions starting in June.

"The important thing is we have empowered these mothers and now they can do almost everything themselves," said Mingming Remata Evora, country director of Plan International.

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