Sri Wahyuni, The Jakarta Post, Yogyakarta
Poverty and ignorance are being blamed by officials in Yogyakarta province for the high number of children under the age of five who are malnourished.
"It is very concerning to see so many of these babies suffering from malnutrition have beautiful, healthy mothers. This is often the case here," head of the provincial health office, Bondan Agus Suryanto, said.
Speaking during the launch of the Nutrition Corner program, sponsored by milk producer PT Frisian Flag Indonesia (FFI), at the Piyungan community health center in Bantul, Bondan said there were more than 2,200 toddlers in the province suffering from malnutrition.
This figure represents more than 1 percent of the total number of under-five children in Yogyakarta.
"That excludes the babies who suffer from nutritional deficiencies," said Bondan, emphasizing that malnutrition remained a major problem in Yogyakarta, which has one of the highest life expectancies in the country.
More than 40 percent of pregnant women in the province suffer from anemia, which in turn leads to the birth of babies suffering health problems and nutritional deficiencies, Bondan said.
Secretary-general of the Association of Indonesian Nutritionists, Edith Sumedi, said malnutrition remained a major health issue that demanded the attention of all related parties.
"In many cases, it is indeed a lack of knowledge about nutrition, especially among mothers, which accounts for the problem," said Edith.
She said not all cases of malnutrition were related to poverty.
"We therefore welcome the initiative of the FFI for this cooperation, to share our knowledge and expertise with mothers who need information about nutrition through the Nutrition Corner program," Edith said.
Speaking separately at the launch, PT FFI corporate affairs director Hendro Harijogi Poedjono said Nutrition Corners were being simultaneously launched at four community health centers in Bantul and Yogyakarta municipality.
"This is basically a continuation of our Frisian Flag Peduli program to help the survivors of the 2006 earthquake fully recover from the disaster," said Hendro.
He said a similar Nutrition Corner program had earlier been started at 10 community health centers in Greater Jakarta.
With the support of the Association of Indonesian Nutritionists, he said the Nutrition Corner program would provide free consultations on nutrition.
The program will also offer small seminars and cooking demonstrations.