Malnutrition in Indonesia, a developing country of 270 million, has resulted in stunting, anaemia among mothers, and obesity, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund. Nearly one in three Indonesian children under five is stunted, it says.
This, and poor child health facilities, mean that the impact on children compares poorly even with countries with soaring infection rates.
Official figures at the end of May gave Indonesia a high rate of child death, at 2.1 per cent, while those under 24 accounted for a little over 0.1 per cent in the United States.
Dr Wahdini Hakim, Indonesia health advisor for Save the Children, said it was a misconception in Indonesia that only older generations were more vulnerable.
“Looking at the data, we have the highest number of cases among children compared to other countries. And many of them are still infants,” she told the Telegraph.
“I think not many people are aware of the risks that this disease presents to children.”
Many had been infected by parents who did not know how to protect their children and households from the virus, added Dr Hakim.
Infants were also at higher risk because of the disruption to essential health services, including “maternal and child health, family planning, nutrition services, diarrhoea management and immunisation,” she warned.
The problem had been worsened by “insufficient funds as a result of diverting support to the outbreak response plan, and then limited number of the health workers that focus on immunisation because they have been diverted to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic,” she said.
Dicky Budiman, a PhD researcher in global health security and pandemics at Griffith University in Australia, agreed that “immunisation also has an influence on the vulnerability of Indonesian children in areas exposed to Covid-19.”
He added: “The more complete the child gets immunised, the more the child has the possibility of having the immunity to fight Covid-19,” while urging the government to keep schools closed until the end of the year.
Meanwhile, Dini Widiastuti, executive director at Yayasan Plan International Indonesia foundation, focusing on child protection, called for more research to assess the vulnerability of the nation’s children.
“There is a real serious need to increase testing and transparency of gender and age disaggregated data,” she said.
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