27 March 2007

Facts about hunger and poverty in Indonesia

HUNGER is like the tip of the iceberg of poverty. Study reveals that malnourished children typically, you may say, crowd the iceberg tip. They characteristically originate from poor families. Most of them, particularly those living in rural areas, do not have any plot of land to till or they have too small one. And those from urban areas only have small, meager, unsteady income. If you count what they get daily into money, their income will be less than Rp200,000 a month. This is definitely far lower than the international threshold of poverty of spending $US 1.55 a day as stated by the World Bank or even US$2 a day by the European Union.

In addition, malnourished children tend not to get nutritious foods as they eat mostly more carbohydrate sources like rice, corn, etc. but no vegetables at all. It is true that most of families have some livestock like chicken and pigs they may take as important source of protein, but very low income and the adat customary demands prevent them from taking benefit without restraint from their meat.

.. their income .. is definitely far lower than the international threshold of poverty ..

Despite of those weaknesses of poor families, however, there are other non-economic determinants that define their ability to avoid their children malnourished. Following are the three most important efforts they do, i.e. first, they feed their children regularly, three times a day, morning, midday, evening; second, they keep their living places clean and regularly frequenting the activities of the community children health center (posyandu) for checking their children’s body weight and serving disease immunization program, third, they routinely feed their children with vegetables. The last two are distinct minimum efforts the poor families exercise to avoid the malnutrition routine threats.

You may ask why many failing families do not do such minimum efforts supposed to be so simple? Apart from the low income of the families, in fact there are some problems, i.e. first, they have very minimum knowledge and understanding about problems on malnutrition and health — this is very likely the result of low level of education, particularly of women; second, the families have many children more than they could shoulder the burden, third, they fail to have a child be born long enough after the other, fourth, the comparatively heavy load of family’s chores on women.

Looking closer into those malnourished children, our study also reveals that they mostly originate from parents with low education background, i.e. they passed only elementary schools or elementary school’s drop-outs, and they have many children. While parents of better-nourished children originate more from parents with higher school education (secondary school) and have less children.


* European Union Overview on Indonesia (September 2006)
* World Bank assessment on poverty (2006)
* World Bank on Poverty (Indonesia Matters)

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