Malnutrition in Eastern Indonesia ‘Higher than in Africa’

SEMINYAK ~ Climate change has helped push malnutrition in the Indonesian half-island of West Timor to levels “higher than in Africa,” aid group Church World Service has said.

A survey of 4,800 households by the group found 61.1 percent of children under five in the region were stunted due to chronic malnutrition, while 13.1 percent of children were acutely malnourished.

“The prevalence of stunting and underweight children in West Timor is higher than in Africa,” Julia Suryantan, the lead author of the report, said.

About 50 percent of West Timorese children – out of a total population of up to two million – were moderately or severely underweight, compared to a figure of 21.9 percent in Africa overall, according to the report.

“It’s a complex situation in West Timor. They have a food security problem there and also limited access to health services,” she said.

Suryantan said the half-island in the country’s east, which is drier than much of the tropical archipelago, was suffering as subsistence farmers faced declining rainfall due to climate change.

“Before they could plant enough corn for one year but now it only lasts them eight months, so they have to buy it,” Suryantan said, adding that higher global food prices mean many families cannot afford to buy enough to eat.

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