Tue, 09 Mar 1999

13,000 E. Java infants malnourished

JAKARTA (JP): Thirteen thousand malnourished infants have been discovered in East Java, with those living in cities more likely to suffer from the condition, Antara reported on Saturday.

Out of 37 townships in East Java, Surabaya and Sidoarjo, two of the larger cities in the province, each were found to have more than 1,000 malnourished babies.

The head of the health office here, Suharsono, said in the provincial capital of Surabaya that 0.3 percent of the province's some three million infants were malnourished, an increase from 1997 when the number of malnourished infants reached 0.16 percent.

Suharsono said the 13,000 malnourished infants included only those who were severely malnourished.

He said that infants in cities were more vulnerable to malnourishment because of the large number of parents who had lost their jobs and the parents' shame in bringing their infants to the local health centers for checkups.

"This shame actually worsens the babies' conditions," Suharsono said, adding that parents should bring their infants to health centers to receive free food and services for their children.

"I hope people can set aside their embarrassment for the sake and safety of their babies," Suharsono said.

Antara reported that among the efforts to alleviate the crisis, East Java had received Rp 21 billion from the social safety net fund. The money has been allocated to meet the health needs of pregnant women, new mothers and infants between the ages of six months and 24 months. The money is also being used to supplement the diets of the needy.

Meanwhile, East Java Governor Imam Utomo said the province's nutrition monitoring team requested Rp 1 billion to help feed the province's infants.

Imam said he had also instructed all regents and mayors in the province, with a total population of 34.5 million, to set aside funds to help feed the poor.

Antara also reported on Saturday from Kupang in East Nusa Tenggara that East Sumba was facing a food shortage because of crop damage caused by locusts. The locusts began destroying crops in the area sometime last year.

The head of the food crops section at the agricultural office here, Umbu Kaludang, said he feared the attacks would continue into 2002 because the climate in East Sumba regency was conducive to the locusts.

"People here will likely experience a severe food shortage because most crops have been destroyed," he was quoted as saying.

The locusts have destroyed thousands of hectares of rice fields, corn fields and other crops, he said, adding that insecticides have so far failed to stop the locusts.

The locusts are migrating across the regency from east to west, and are currently in the hilly area of the Lambanapu area of Kota Waingapu district.

Umby raised fears that the locusts could spread to West Sumba. (anr)