More than 40 percent of the 119 districts in West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) are at risk for food shortages, an official says, blaming poverty and high female illiteracy rates.
“There are 14 indicators for a province to be at risk for a food shortage,” NTB Food Security Agency (BKPD) head Husnanidiaty Nurdin said on Tuesday. “NTB has cleared 10 of them, but it has yet to alleviate four other indicators, including poverty and female literacy.”
The other problematic indicators for NTB were the province’s high infant malnutrition rate and limited access to electricity.
“Based on the four indicators, around 40 percent, or 47 of a total of 119 districts in NTB, were categorized as at risk of food shortages this year. They are found in eight regencies. We continue to support districts to enable them to change their status of being at risk of food shortages,” she said.
According to Husnanidiaty, while the at-risk districts were not currently suffering from shortages, the problematic indicators — which were all interrelated — showed that the province was not yet free of famine.
Husnanidiaty cited the hypothetical example of an illiterate mother who cannot read food labels or information to ensure that her family eats nutritiously. Poor dietary choices will affect her children’s health, and might lead to malnutrition.
Solutions, however, have proven elusive. The provincial education office “has made efforts” to alleviate the female illiteracy rate, Husnanidiaty said, while the provincial health office is “monitoring and coping” with malnutrition.
Based on data released by the local office of the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), the number of people living below the poverty line in the province was 894,770 in 2011, or 19.7 percent of NTB’s population of 4.5 million. Officials claim that the rate has declined 1.87 percent since 2010.
The local BPS also said that the number of illiterate people aged 14 and over was 180,000, 85 percent of whom are women.
The NTB Health Office has recorded 20 deaths and more than 550 cases of malnutrition this year as of September. The cases were found in 10 regencies and mayoralties.
The provincial celebration of the annual World Food Day was held on Nov. 6 in Dompu, Sumbawa. Community leaders expressed hope the event would not be just ceremonial and that the government would initiate sustainable programs to solve the province’s food woes.
On power — another reason behind food insecurity in NTB, Husnanidiaty said that while the entire province was connected to the power grid, not every family had access to electricity.
However, there has been some progress. Husnanidiaty noted that the current number of at-risk districts in the province has declined 26 percent from 64 between 2010 to 2011.