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In Sumba, childhood malnutrition is unacceptably high. At the start of the project, we saw that about 50% of children under five had stunted growth. Sumba is the Indonesian island closest to northern Australia but remote from Indonesian centres. The people in Lamboya Barat are mostly poor subsistence farmers and food insecurity is a huge issue.
Food insecurity mostly affects children under five, leading to chronic under-nutrition or stunting. Stunting indicates that a child is failing to thrive, with impaired brain development, lower IQ, weakened immune systems and greater risk of serious diseases.
Children under six months tend to be healthier, following SurfAid’s successful exclusive breastfeeding intervention. However, they generally become underweight once complementary feeding starts, which can become a continuing issue.
However, with support from the Footprints Network, SurfAid has helped to empower families to break this cycle and maintain healthy nutrition!
We assisted families through coaching parents to give better childcare, maintain healthy nutrition, and pay attention to hygiene and sanitation. In addition, we encouraged them to establish nutrition gardens around the newly established SurfAid community water facilities.
SurfAid hosted monthly coaching sessions for parents and caregivers about health and nutrition issues. We work with 80 village health volunteers who are members of the community themselves to give health education and promote healthy living practices at home.
Every month, the volunteers – assisted by SurfAid staff – refresh the knowledge of parents and caregivers on the topic of nutrition, types of food, how to give a balanced meals for their children, as well as hygiene and sanitation practices to avoid diseases.
We used methods such as watching (educational) films with short “commercial breaks” made by the community themselves on health promotion, food cards, and small group discussions. This method stimulated more parents and caregivers to talk about their issues. We then helped them address their problems in maintaining good nutrition for their children. Some of these problems are caused by age old traditions, for example during planting and harvesting season, parents need to go to their fields, which are very far away from their houses. This means that they leave their children for more than two weeks in the care of grand parents or young siblings.
Seeing is believing…. Talking about nutrition is a great way to create awareness and increase knowledge. To translate this knowledge into good practice, we organize monthly cooking classes. This helps parents or caregivers to prepare a varied menuo to prepare simple, nutritious food with cheap, locally available ingredients.
Traditionally, a meal for children would only be a bowl of rice with some salt… This has not enough nutrition, and is not varied, causing children to often skip their meals.
The newest recipe we introduced was Cassava Soup. It is very simple to make, most people grow cassava in their garden and it is delicious. Parents were super enthusiastic and the children were having second helpings!
The communities have worked very hard, under guidance of SurfAid, to establish water facilities in the remote arid areas. With water closer to their homes, we encouraged the communities to start their own nutrition gardens, using grey water from the communal tap stands.
A total 101 out of 143 gardens have harvested twice, and some of them were even able to sell some of their produce! This has increased their expendable income and contributed to the increase of the nutrition status!
The parenting class aims to assist parents to give better care of their children.
Without access to information or education, many parents and caregivers in remote areas still lack the knowledge of proper childcare. They pay little attention of the children’s food intake, their cleanliness, and their environment. All these things are addressed in the parenting classes. Child development and how parents can stimulate children to develop better, are completely new, and sometimes alien concepts for the parents. Therefore the initial session were a bit awkward, and parents were very quietly checking out were all this would lead, but after a few sessions, this is what they had to say:
“After going to SurfAid's Parenting Class, I as parent start to think about my children's future, such as start saving! I realise our culture needs a lot of money. My husband and I agree that we reduce buying livestock if it's only for our family pride. I have and will continue to get the other mothers to come to this kind of positive activity. I myself have felt the benefits”
“Before I thought just giving my kids food is enough. Now I spend more time talking to them when they eat or play. I also tell them stories before they go to bed. They are very happy."
"Since we joined the Parenting Class last month, my husband and I avoid saying bad words in front of our children. We now know they can follow saying it if they hear us saying it."
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