Indonesia faces "lost generation" because of child malnutrition
"If you take the average IQ level at 100, with 65 percent of children under three years of age anaemic, and 50 percent under two suffering from a lack of micro-nutrients, the average could fall to 92 or 93 percent," United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) regional representative Stephen Woodhouse said.
A lack of micro-nutrients, such as Vitamin A, Iodine and iron, he said could cause a drop of 10 to 15 percent in individual IQ levels.
Woodhouse, area representative for Indonesia and Malaysia, said he saw the lost generation as a "very long term negative impact" of the crisis over the space of 10 years, which would hurt Indonesia's competitiveness.
"I am quite pessimistic on the possibility of a lost generation," he said, adding it was compounded by lack of health care and soaring school dropouts, which would in turn lead to a widening of the income disparity in Indonesia.
The crisis, he said, had also seen a drastic rise in the maternal mortality rate, especially in populous Java, where it had risen 60 percent from 22,000 per million of the population to 35,000 per million in the space of one year.
He attributed the drastic rise in the maternal morality rate to lack of money to pay for gasoline to transport difficult cases to the nearest health facilities, the lack of facilities themselves as well as a rise of five to six percent in anaemia levels in pregnant women.
Woodhouse said UNICEF had as yet been unable to collect enough data on the number of school dropouts, especially among girls, forced by the economic crisis, but said current efforts to stem the problem had been "not sufficient and too slow."
Though the school year had been underway for 11 or 12 weeks, only one quarter of the funds allocated for scholarships to try to keep the children of the poor in schools had been disbursed, he said.
"And it is unlikely that those who drop out will go back" he said, saying that their parents would find they had fallen too far behind in their studies.
The areas of Indonesia which were of gravest concern for UNICEF, he said were urban areas and densely populated East Java.
In April Woodhouse sounded the alarm when he said UNICEF had received data showing that eight million inflants under five years of age across Indonesia were seriously malnourished.
A survey carried out for UNICEF by Helen Keller International at the time showed the malnutrition rate in Java at 10 times other areas.
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