At least 487 children under five-years old have been recorded as suffering from malnutrition up until May 31, and 10 of these had died.
Four of the 10 dead succumbed at home, despite free treatment being provided at hospitals. Families prefer to taking care of their sick children at home because they cannot afford to attend to them while they are in hospital.
Malnutrition is a disease resulting from an acute deficiency of protein and carbohydrate in the diet.
Sufferers usually die as a result of these deficiencies or because their bodies are no longer capable of warding off disease.
"There are still numerous contagious diseases in the province, especially those that infants are susceptible to, like pneumonia and diarrhea. Both illnesses can aggravate the condition of infants. Besides acute diseases, there are also chronic diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria," deputy head of the West Nusa Tenggara Health Office, Komang Gerudug was quoted as saying.
Malnutrition is nothing new or strange in West Nusa Tenggara.
Actually, many such cases are found in this province where 60 percent, or about 2.7 million, of people aged over 15 work in the agricultural or plantation sectors.
Data from the province's health office indicated that there were 1,544 malnourished children in 2004, with no deaths recorded.
"Perhaps there were deaths, but we never received any reports," said Mari'e Sanad, head of the health and nutrition department at the health office.
The rate of malnutrition in the province is cause for concern as it is higher than the national average. The national average is 8 percent of the total number of children under the age of five, while the number of undernourished children reached 10 percent of the 500,000 under-fives in West Nusa Tenggara.
The total number of under-fives suffering from malnutrition in the province is most likely more than this, because many cases go unnoticed or unreported.
Head of the West Nusa Tenggara Health Office Baiq Magdalena disclosed that only 50 percent to 60 percent of children under- five had ever been brought to an integrated health service post to receive health care.