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Archive for September 6th, 2012

Miguna’s Kisumu tormentors now wanted by police

Posted by African Press International on September 6, 2012 dickens.wasonga. API Reporter. Kenya dickens.wasonga. API Reporter. Kenya

By Dickens Wasonga, reporting from Kisumu- Kenya.

Police in Kisumu are reportedly hunting down people suspected to have disrupted Miguna Miguna’s promotional tour of his controversial book” peeling back the mask” in the lake side city.

However it is emerging that the officers’ efforts to nab those believed to have taken part in the incident are already being hampered by lack of the video clip that captured the moment which was also widely aired by various local TV stations in their respective news bulletins.

According to a police officer who wished not to be identified since he is not authorized to talk to the media pressure was piling up for them to arrest those who disrupted the author’s function held at a Kisumu hotel last month.

The officer said they have been looking for the footage to help them identify the suspects but they were yet to succeed.

Miguna who served the Prime Minister Raila Odinga as his adviser on coalition matters for close to four years before he was controversially kicked out met hostile reception in Kisumu and was only rescued by heavily armed security personnel led by the Kisumu OCPD Musa Kongoli who were forced to whisk him to safety through the hotel’s back door.

Before the confrontation that saw him cut short his speech Miguna had successfully addressed the audience of about 500 people for close to a half an hour during which he hit out at the PM and those working in his office whom he described as corrupt.

Soon after the Kisumu incident and that of Nakuru where was also heckled a defiant Miguna headed to the coast in what he termed as a mission to popularize his book only to be received rudely. The Mombasa incident also caught on tape proved even more ugly.

TV footage aired on various channels saw the controversial author being roughed up by rowdy youths. He was to lose his trade mark cap and a shoe in the ensuing melee.

But a few day later he got arousing welcome when he toured Nyeri town , president Mwai Kibaki’s back yard.

Those who ejected him from Nakuru, Mombasa and Kisumu alleged he was a political hireling working for Raila’s political opponents to stop the Orange Democratic Movement party supremo from clinching the presidency in the 2013 polls.
But when he was in Kisumu he dismissed the claims adding that nobody should expect him to work for the National Alliance party which is associated with the deputy premier Uhuru Kenyatta who is also in the race to state house.

When reached for comment over the matter Kisumu east district commissioner Willy Cheboi said he had not officially been informed over the investigations but added that after the attack in Mombasa leaders across the political divide raised concern and called for government intervention.

” In Kisumu there was no violence. In fact youths just disrupted Miguna’s meeting but we are aware there have been calls from the leaders on the police to act” said the DC.

However efforts to get the local police boss to comment over the arrest claims were futile. The OCPD Musa Kongoli cleverly evaded the issue promising to call back which he declined to do.


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Tribulations of the child worker – Feature

Posted by African Press International on September 6, 2012

  • BY Maurice Alal, reporting from Kisumu – Kenya

Kayla Terry (not real name), 12, a resident of Kisumu’s Nyalenda estate, wakes up every morning at around 5 am and trudges to a nearby kiosk to fetch water for use in her masters house. Agnes also helps prepare and serve the family’s meals and sweeps the yard among other chores.
Agnes has no shoes except a quarter-heel chopped off-blue sandals, which she always uses to protect her cracked small feet.
The young girl found herself in this dehumanizing situation 3 years ago after she lost both parents in a fatal road accident along Ahero-Kisumu highway.
Agnes who was the second born child was later adopted by an uncle who resides in Eldoret but her stay did not last for long as circumstances forced her to escape from the house as a result of being mistreated by the family members.
While at her uncle’s place, Agnes was forced to sleep on a thin, torn mattress and was frequently beaten on the slightest provocation of the uncle’s wife while she fed on food leftovers and droppings from the family table.
Agnes is a domestic worker, hidden behind a mansion wall that completely protects some of the worst and notorious perpetrators of child labour in society.
Child labour which is broadly defined as the employment of children is often a harsh and exploitative condition with minimal pay but has remained stubbornly alive across the world both in the developing and industrialized countries.
The human cost of child labour is immense and leaves children gaunt, crippled, sick and illiterate.
Perhaps the most important efforts to eliminate child labour among other forms of abuse throughout the world originate from the International Labour Organization (ILO) which was founded in 1919 and has since been transformed into a special agency of the United Nations (UN).
The organization has introduced several child labour conventions among its members including a minimum age of 16 years for admission to all kinds work, a higher minimum age for specific types of employment, compulsory medical examinations and regulation of right work.
In the late 20th century (ILO) added the worst forms of child labour to its list which included slavery, prostitution, debt bondage (where children work to pay off loans owed by their parents) and forced military service.
A growing concern in recent years has been the increase in prostitution among youngsters in urban areas. Children have been forced into prostitution as a result of abject poverty.
According to the 1997 UNICEF report on child labour, most employers will always try to hire workers who are easier to exploit.

“The most vulnerable and weakest workers are children who are usually paid less than adults and are often ignorant of their rights or how to protest against poor working conditions”, says the report.
Poverty, it adds, plays an enormous role in the phenomenon of child labour. Desperate for money, poor families around the world, Kenya included are forced to push even young children to increase the families overall income.
For poor families the small contribution of a child’s income or assistance at home can make a huge difference between hunger and a bare sufficiency, the survey further states.
Meanwhile, a study of nine Latin American countries established that without the income of working children aged 13 to 17 the poverty rate would increase by 10 to 20 percent.
Back in Kenya, a stroll in the streets of Kisumu city at night will leave anyone gasping for breath on realizing the age of girls who frequent most night clubs in the area for prostitution.
Kisumu District Labour Officer, Kephas Odhiambo notes that most of the girls’ are driven to these joints by a strong urge for earning extra cash to enable them take care of their poor parents and family members.
“Because they do not want their parents and siblings to suffer due to lack of money, the young girls agree to let their bodies be misused by men for as little as Ksh. 50 in complete disregard of the risk of contracting the deadly HIV/AIDS virus”, says Odhiambo.
Statistics available at the local labour office indicate that more than 20,000 underage girls in Kisumu East District have been lured or forced into commercial sex exploitation by wealthy men.
However, when these child prostitutes manage to escape, they are often stigmatized and rejected by respective families and communities, says the official.
A part from prostitution, a high percentage of underage children in the district are involved in sand harvesting, fishing, cattle herding, charcoal kilns, brick-making factories and in homes as house maids just to mention a few areas.
Many of the youths land into such jobs after dropping out of schools either willingly or as a result of expensive school fees or tuition imposed on parents by local learning institutions.
A survey by the local education office in 2002 established that most children drop out of school because the curriculum is very rigid and boring to an extent that they prefer to look for work instead, which they find a little interesting apart from earning meager cash.
The survey also cites child labour as owing its existence largely to outdated customs and traditions among local communities.
“In this part of Kenya traditions play a strong role in exacerbating child labour with girls as young as 7 years old working for years as domestic servants.
Kisumu East District Children Officer (DCO), Jane Rono said her office registers up to 200 cases of child abuse cases every month perpetrated by parents and employers.
However, Rono’s predicament is that most of the cases never see the light as they pass through the hands of police and labour officers who, unfortunately get compromised to settle them out of court when money exchange hands.
“Our efforts to fight child labour in this district has been sabotaged by our own law enforcers who opts to free suspects before taking them to court”, laments Rono.
Despite the noticeable alarming shortage of labour inspectors in this region, the few who have been deployed to work in the district have failed to enforce laws that would curb the vice.
It is worth noting that some cases involving child labour have been dropped after labour officials allegedly received heavy bribes from rich personalities who saw child labour cases as “cash cows” from which they minted millions of shillings.
According to Odhiambo, Kisumu East District is known for child labour problems with more than 50% of under age children being forced to drop out of school to seek employment so as to meet their families’ needs.
Twenty percent (20%) of those desperately seek a living out of performing household chores at homes in various towns and local market centers while the remaining percentage are engaged in the vast maize farms dotting the district as harvesters.
Despite earning meager incomes out of the odd jobs, the minors endure the worst kind of mistreatment in their masters’ houses; so as to meet their basic needs, adds the District Children’s boss (Rono).
Cases of children as young as 11 years, working for 12 hours a day in maize fields are some of the ‘normal’ surprises a visitor encounters in the district.
It is also ‘normal’ to encounter cases of young children toiling in hot acid brick-making factories spread out in the district.
Child labour conventions set by the ILO which many world nations have flouted with impunity clearly sets the minimum working age and time for specific types of employment.
The laws, however, vary from country to country. Often there are different minimum ages for various types of work. For example, in Egypt, the legal minimum for all work is 12 years, in Philippines 14, in Peru the minimum age in agriculture is 14, in industry and in deep Sea fishing it is 16 years.
Unfortunately, minors in Kenya work for long under unfavorable hours in the full glare of law enforcers and in total contravention of the new constitution.
It is, therefore, a challenge to the Government, local and international organizations involved in the campaigns against child labour to ensure that the laws are strictly adhered to if we hope to protect the minors from child labour in Kenya.
As for now, the best we can do is keep our fingers crossed and pray for divine intervention that the problem will either melt away or the various stakeholders will take the bull by the horn and tackle it head on. What do you think?


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Posted by African Press International on September 6, 2012


The Kenya government in collaboration with the S&E Bio Technology Development Company from the People’s Republic of China has launched an herbal product ‘Restore Plus Granules’ that research shows to be reducing the morbidity and improve the quality of life to people living with HIV and AIDS.

Restore Plus product is an herbal product developed in recognition that although modern drugs to help immune suppressed subjects regain good health.
The product has been used in China in persons suffering from conditions which cause immunosuppression such as HIV and AIDS. In Kenya the product trials were conducted in conjunction with the Centre for Public Health Research at Kenya Medical Research Institute

The trial with the initial subjects lasted for a period of 22 months and showed beneficial effects such as the reduced incidents of opportunistic infections in the persons suffering from HIV and AIDS.

Restore Plus donated to the Kenya Ministry of Medical Services will be distributed to the affected persons as an addition to the supplies of nutritional supplements currently being procured by the government.

Speaking during the donation of the products at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital in Kisumu City, the Minister for Medical Services Prof. Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o said that HIV and AIDS is still one of the major public health challenges in the country and around the world that need to be addressed.
Prof. Nyong’o stated that its effects are widespread and include  socio-economic as well as health aspects.

“Although in Kenya we have made great strides in mitigating its effects, there’s still much more to be done. The use of anti-retroviral therapies, which include anti-retroviral medicines and nutritional supplements,” he said.

The minister further said that the use of anti-retroviral has largely enabled a number of Kenyan citizens to continue with their productive lives.
However, in the fight against HIV and AIDS the minister reveals that alternative medicine in Kenyans needs is undergoing development based
on research in the line with the “Global Strategy and Plan of action on public health, innovation and intellectual property” adopted at the sixty first World Health Assembly in resolution WHA 61.21 in 2008.

The minister said the government, international organizations and other stakeholders need to collaborate in implementing the global strategy and plan of action.
Prof Nyong’o also stated that the ministry is currently reviewing the existing legal instruments and drafting new laws to deal with overlaps in fighting the diseases, clarity responsibilities and make provisions for regulatory activities not covered in the present laws to make sure effective regulations in complementary and alternative medicines.

“We in the ministry will establish systems for the qualification, accreditation or licensing of alternative medicines in line with the Kenya National Pharmaceutical Policy (KNPP) (Sessional paper No.4 of

He further stated that the knowledge of alternative medicine, treatments and practices should be respected, preserved, promoted and communicated widely and appropriately based on the circumstances in each country.

“We have a responsibility for the health of the people and we are
formulating national policies, regulations and standards, as part of
comprehensive national health systems to ensure appropriate, safe and
effective use of traditional medicine,” Prof. Nyong’o emphasized.

However, during the donation of the Restore Plus Granules, the Chairperson of S&E Bio-Technology Development Company Madam Lu Ziyun said that the product should be embraced as it is beneficial to persons with low immunity and restraining viral replication without any harmful side effects.

She said the benefits of Restore Plus Granules included stimulation of the appetite, improve the viral signs and stalled diseases progression without causing any notable side effects. It also reduces respiratory infections, unexplained fevers, skin rashes, diarrhea, cough and fatigue.

Ziyun added that the product increases lymphocytes, CD3, CD4 and white
blood cells as well as enhancing liver and kidney functions urging HIV
Positive persons to make proper use of the products.




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Where are the stolen millions?: Four Maseno varsity staff sacked over a scandal that led to loss of millions

Posted by African Press International on September 6, 2012

By Dickens Wasonga, reporting from Kenya

Maseno university has unearthed a syndicate involving some senior staff at the finance department that is believed to have led to a massive rip off at the institution of higher learning.

According to the Vice Chancellor Prof. Dominic Makawiti four senior officers attached to the accounts department have already been sacked as investigations commence in earnest .

Speaking to journalists who paid him a courtesy call in his office at Maseno recently the VC said the money lost could be running into millions of shillings adding that once the internal probe team completes it work those who have been implicated in the scandal will be handed over to the police for prosecution.

He revealed that one of the suspended officers from the department whose names we can not name due to legal reasons secured admission for his three children at the university and went on learning free of charge at the institution until they were awarded degree certificates.

Professor Makawiti said preliminary investigations revealed how the officers made fake receipts bearing the university logo which they would issue to unsuspecting students complete with a parallel bank accounts where they diverted the money meant for the university fees.

” Most of the students were paying fees but the university was denied the cash since it was deliberately diverted a channeled to accounts of these people. The university lost a great deal and this is unacceptable. We must bring the culprits to book” said Makawiti

He said the fraudsters were mainly targeting those students on parallel programs whose numbers continue to grow.

” You know we have been expanding and today we have satellite campuses in most parts of the region. It means that the number of students enrolling for various programs have increased so is the money but these crooks decided to divert it into their own accounts.” he added.

He dismissed as baseless rumors claims that he was favoring some members of the teaching staff at the institution who are drawn from his native Nyakach clan explaining that most of the people who were promoted deserved such considerations and earned them during the time of his predecessor the late Prof Onyango.

” What we have done since i took over was to merely effect some internal administrative changes which are meant to streamline operations and ensure effective service delivery which is very normal whenever there is regime change”.he said

The V C said he had a team of dedicated staff but hastened to ask all the stakeholders of the university including the local community to back strategies that will boost the institution’s endeavors instead of engaging in empty rhetoric that will affect operations at the institution.

Maseno has seen massive expansion lately that also saw Bondo university college established as it constituent campus. In its addition Maseno also established Kisumu City campus and Homa -bay where process of acquiring land to build a campus is already underway.


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Dickens Wasonga appointed API Representative in Kenya

Posted by African Press International on September 6, 2012 Dickens Wasonga. African Press International Kenya representative from 01.09.2012 to 01.05.2013 Dickens Wasonga. African Press International Kenya representative from 01.09.2012 to 01.05.2013

Dickens Wasonga (photo), based in Kisumu – Kenya, a journalist who has filed many stories with African Press International in the last few years, has been appointed API’s Kenya representative.

His appointment has the validity from 01. September 2012 to 01. May 2013.

He is to cover social and political happenings in Kenya.

We wish him well in his new role for our International Online News Media and especially this year where the Kenyans are deep in politics due to next year’s March 4th general elections, his role will be of great importance to API’s coverage of political happenings in the country from now until the election time.

By Chief Editor (API)

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Water pipeline rupture: Residents say water levels in the wells have dropped

Posted by African Press International on September 6, 2012

A 12-year-old girl draws water from a well near her home in a village on the outskirts of Islamabad. Residents say water levels in the wells have dropped over the years

KARACHI,  – In early August, as people struggled to survive the humid summer heat, a huge power cut deprived almost half of Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi, of electricity for more than 16 hours and led to the rupture of a water pipeline carrying more than 20 percent of the city’s drinking water.

Chaos ensued as people chased after water tankers selling water at exorbitant prices; there were long queues at public water taps; and protests in the slums.

The burst pipeline exposed the country’s dilapidated infrastructure, according to a recent study by the state-run Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) and the World Bank. “Erratic weather patterns” caused by climate change would make that infrastructure vulnerable in the future, it said.

“Our [technical] assets are quite vulnerable and what we need to do is to protect them from all potential debacles,” Misbah Farid, managing director of KWSB, told IRIN.

KWSB, which supplies water to Karachi’s 20 million people, claims to be the first public sector utility in Asia to have assessed the impact of climate change and how it could affect – and is already affecting – its “operational assets”.

“The recent years of extreme weather necessitated [this study] so that we could at least prepare and ultimately face the challenges in the coming years,” Ayoob Shaikh, the chief engineer who led the study for KWSB, told IRIN.

“Erratic weather patterns, wasteful usage of water and fast depletion of surface water resources could play havoc in the not-too-far future,” said Shaik.

Feeling the pinch

One of the main challenges, KWSB said, was to protect water and sewage pumping and treatment facilities from extreme and unpredictable weather.

Shaikh highlighted the drought-like situation in 2000 when the city – considered the country’s most advanced and its financial hub – was not able to draw a single drop of water from Hub Dam, the second largest source of water for the city after the River Indus.

“A sizeable part of the population” was affected that year, said Shaik. However, last year, Hub Dam was full and excessive rain flooded many of KWSB’s water pumping facilities.

''Erratic weather patterns, wasteful usage of water and fast depletion of surface water resources could play havoc in the not-too-far future.''

KWSB’s water pumping and distribution system consists of a complex and crisscrossing set of pipelines covering 14,000sqkm. Water from the River Indus enters KWSB’s supply system through Lake Kinjhar, some 130km east of Karachi. From that point, the water enters a canal at Lake Haleji leading to Gharo and Dhabeji pumping stations.

The River Indus accounts for more than 86 percent of the city’s water supply – 670 million gallons per day (mgd). Demand, according to KWSB, is 1,080 mgd.

Already faced with a deficit of over 400 mgd, the decreasing water flow in the River Indus – calculated to be up to 70 percent less in 2050 compared to current levels – will pose a serious threat to the accessibility of surface water.

According to KWSB, glaciers in the Himalayas, the source of the Indus, will melt at faster rates in the future, depleting frozen water reserves and contributing to a sharp fall in water flows in the longer-term.

“We would start feeling the pinch by the year 2025 but in the year 2050 there would be [a] 60-70 percent shortage of surface water,” Shaikh warned.

Many Pakistanis say they are already feeling the pinch now. The water deficit is forcing KWSB to unofficially ration water, shutting down supplies for a week or 10 days in areas where revenue recovery through fixed water charges is poor.

“For us, taking [a] bath is a luxury,” said Hamid Ali, a fruit vendor from Keamari District. “We avail of that on Friday if all goes well; the rest of the time we keep stinking with the bad smell of sweat.” There are similar problems even in the capital, Islamabad.

A recent World Bank report found that in 2006, inadequate sanitation cost Pakistan $5.7 billion in health care, extra water, lost productivity and welfare – nearly 4 percent of GDP that year.

Inability to adapt

The study’s findings have alarmed water utility officials who are running facilities inherited from colonial times with very limited resources.

Shaikh said KWSB has set up a “climate change cell” to find solutions to the water crisis, for example by raising pumping facilities so that floods do not submerge them. But funding is likely to be an issue. In August, managing director Farid was forced to disconnect water to Pakistan’s second busiest port, Port Qasim, in order to pay employees their salaries ahead of the Eid holiday.

Photo: Ashraf Khan/IRIN
Catering to the water needs in downtown Karachi – the old-fashioned way

Independent experts are pessimistic: “The situation is quite bleak as the utility [KWSB] is not able to make financial recoveries and millions of gallons of water go to waste because of poor pipelines,” said Farhan Anwar, a consultant affiliated with the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Programme.

There is an immense need to create public awareness around water conservation and the gravity of the issue, he added, “but the water board needs to put its own house in order first.”

Solutions and obstacles

A proposal to build a mega dam known as Kalabagh Dam – seen by some as a possible solution to the impending shortages – was shelved by the present government amid intense political wrangling between provinces. The leadership of Sindh Province, for example, accuses neighbouring Punjab of drawing off more than its fair share of water from the River Indus.

“Kalabagh Dam could be a good source of water but only when the rules of business are followed strictly,” said Abdul Ghani Abassi, a former official of the Indus River System Authority (IRSA), the authority responsible for inter-province water distribution. “That is why [the dam] is not acceptable for the people of Sindh.”

Some academics have suggested treating and recycling sewage water, but this too has run into obstacles due to a lack of funding, according to Masoom Yazdani, a microbiologist at Quide Azam University. KWSB dumps 400 mgd of sewage into the Arabian Sea per day, 70 mgd of which is treated.

Pakistan is one of 17 countries facing severe water shortages by 2025, according to the World Bank. “Water availability on a per capita basis has been declining at an alarming rate, from about 5,000 cubic metres per capita in 1951 to about 1,100 currently, which is just above the internationally recognized scarcity rate, and is projected to be less than 700 by 2025,” says an undated World Bank report.

ak/ha/cb  source


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Government welcomes refugee repatriation from India

Posted by African Press International on September 6, 2012

COLOMBO,  – The Sri Lankan government is to step up efforts to repatriate more Sri Lankan refugees from India next year.

“In 2013, we will address the repatriation of Sri Lankan refugees living in southern India,” Sri Lanka’s Minister of Resettlement Gunaratne Weerakoon told IRIN in Colombo.

According to Indian government figures, there are more than 100,000 Sri Lankans in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, including 68,000 in 112 government-run camps and 32,000 outside the camps.

The government is keen to welcome thousands of ethnic Tamil Sri Lankan refugees home after two and a half decades, Weerakoon said, noting, however, that Colombo’s current priority is the resettlement of those who were internally displaced in the final stages of the decades-long civil war which ended in May 2009.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, more than 440,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) have returned to the country’s north, three years after government forces declared victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who had been fighting for an independent Tamil homeland for more than 25 years.

“We will soon start talking to the Indian government, but not this year,” the minister said.

Four waves of refugees

Sri Lankan Tamils first began arriving in India in large numbers after communal violence and civil war broke out in 1983 – many with just the clothes on their back. A second influx occurred in 1989; third and fourth waves began in 1995 and 2006.

Asked how a larger repatriation effort might be implemented, Weerakoon said: “It will happen in stages and will be carried out with the assistance of the Indian government and UNHCR [the UN Refugee Agency]… There needs to be special support for such returnees.”

Since the end of the civil war, more than 5,000 Sri Lankans have returned to the island nation under a UNHCR-facilitated voluntary repatriation scheme. Most were from refugee camps in Tamil Nadu, and originally hailed from Trincomalee, Mannar, Vavuniya and Jaffna districts, with smaller numbers from Kilinochchi, Batticaloa, Colombo, Mullaitivu, Puttalam and Kandy.

In 2011, 1,728 Sri Lankan refugees returned with UNHCR’s help after the agency stepped up its assistance package to returnees. By the end of July 2012 a further 758 had returned.

“UNHCR in India helps Sri Lankan refugees who want to return home to do so. We pay for their air fare back to Colombo and help them get their exit permits from the Indian government and their travel documents from the Sri Lankan deputy High Commission in Chennai,” Nayana Bose, associate external relations officer for UNHCR in New Delhi, explained.

According to UNHCR, there are more than 136,000 Sri Lankan refugees living in 65 countries worldwide. Of those who have returned, the overwhelming majority are from Indian camps in Tamil Nadu, with a handful also returning from Malaysia, Georgia and Hong Kong.

dh/ds/cb source


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Despite progress, malnutrition remains a challenge

Posted by African Press International on September 6, 2012

Despite progress, malnutrition remains a challenge

JAKARTA,  – While Indonesia in relative terms is cutting the number of malnourished children under the age of five, wasting and stunting – especially in certain pockets of the country – remain a major concern, say health experts.

Based on national statistics, Indonesia is one of 15 countries making the fastest gains in cutting child malnutrition among 165 developing countries, according to a recent ranking from NGO Save the Children.

In 2010, the government estimated some 18 percent of under-five children nationwide weighed too little for their age, a sign of malnutrition, compared to 31 percent in 1989.

However, the absolute number of malnourished under fives between 1989 and 2010 has probably increased, given that the country’s population has grown from 179 to 237 million during this period, and that the proportion of under-fives in the population is also probably greater now than 20 years ago.

On the plus side, the government has taken steps to improve breastfeeding rates and promote timely complementary feeding in young children, hygiene, and Vitamin A, iron and zinc supplements, said Minarto, the director of nutrition promotion at the Health Ministry, who like many Indonesians goes by only one name.

Nevertheless, stunting and wasting, or acute malnutrition – when a child weighs too little for their height, which can result from a sudden lack of access to food or illness – still affect a “significant” proportion of children in Indonesia, said Nuraini Razak, a spokeswoman with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

National statistics for an archipelago nation made up of over 17,000 islands (about 900 of them permanently inhabited) hide wide regional disparities, said Minarto.

In East Nusatenggara Province, some 2,000km east of the capital of Jakarta, the prevalence of underweight children was 34 percent – similar to neighbouring West Nusatenggara’s rate of 30 percent – versus the national average of 18 percent, according to the government’s 2010 National Health Survey.

“These areas are vulnerable to food scarcity, especially during dry spells,” Minarto said, noting the government has emergency reserves.

UNICEF warns that though the country has attained the first Millennium Development Goal to halve the percentage of people living on less than US$1 a day and suffering from hunger in 1990, malnutrition remains “of great concern”.

One in three Indonesian children under the age of five suffers from malnutrition – both acute and chronic – according to the 2010 Health Survey.

Some 13 percent of the same group is acutely malnourished. Health experts consider 15 percent as the threshold of a health “emergency”.

From 1990-2010, the country reduced its rate of chronic malnutrition – also known as stunting when children are too short for their age groups – by more than 2 percent, still leaving more than three out of 10 children stunted.

Malnutrition contributes to half the deaths of Indonesian children before they reach age five, UNICEF estimates. For those who survive, malnutrition can impair brain development and hobble learning capacity, weaken a child’s immunity and increase the risk of diabetes, obesity, heart disease and strokes.

apt/pt/cb  source


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