Headlines

Babies in East Nusa Tenggara
face threat of malnutrition

There are reports that 6,000 of the 500,000 children under the age of five in East Nusa Tenggara’s (NTT) suffer from marasmus, kwashiorkor and severe malnutrition that claimed 10 lives last year.

One of the sufferers is 8-month-old Renaldy Buy, who is undergoing medical treatments at WZ Yohanes General Hospital in the provincial capital Kupang.

The eighth son of Melkias and Vincen Buy of Tilong subdistrict in Central Kupang, Renaldy looks weak. While an infant of his age would weigh between 8 and 12 kilograms, Renaldy weighs only 3 kilograms.

“We don’t have enough money to buy milk, eggs and other nutritious food for our children,” Vincen, Renaldy’s mother, said.

She said her husband earned less than Rp 500,000 a month as an ojek (motorcycle taxi) driver. They live in a small house with a dirt floor, which was blamed for causing Renaldy’s tuberculosis and lung problems before he was finally diagnosed with suffering from marasmus, kwashiorkor and severe malnutrition.

Having eight children in the family makes conditions worse.

Consuming just rice or porridge without any side dishes is a routine for Renaldy and the whole family. “We can only enjoy fish or meat when we are invited to a party,” Vincen said.

Given their financial limitations, the family can now only hope Renaldy recovers soon.

Along with Renaldy, 20 other children are currently receiving medical treatments for severe malnutrition at the same hospital.

The 10-bed ward looks crowded as hospital officials were forced to add more beds to accommodate all of the babies.

The ward was specially set up to treat babies from poor families.

The head of the hospital’s pediatric ward, Nelcy, said the medical treatments was provided for free to all the children. Every morning, afternoon and evening, they receive additional nutrition in the form of eggs and formula milk.

“Normally children suffering from severe malnutrition need at least three months to recover. After that they continue their treatment at home under the supervision of the nearest community health center or hospital,” she said.

Of the 21 regencies and municipalities in NTT, Kupang has the highest rate of marasmus, kwashiorkor and severe malnutrition with 1,431 reported cases. South Timor Tengah regency is second with 500 cases, the province’s social welfare agency claims.

The provincial administration has rolled out programs to help curb the rate of malnutrition, including, among others, providing additional nutritious foods through integrated health service posts and campaigning on public awareness about the importance of exclusively breast-feeding babies during the first six months.

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