It is estimated that more than half of the Sumbanese children under the age of 5 suffer from malnutrition and anemia caused by poor diet.
We began the Nutrition Program in early 2008 due to the immense number of malnourished children and adults seen in Western Sumba. Since then there have been 1,650 malnourished infants in this project. They were brought up to WHO recommended weight standards over six-month periods in this program. Many of these children were so severely malnourished they were close to death.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that malnourishment is the direct and/or indirect cause of 35 percent of deaths among children under the age of 5. The WHO defines acute malnutrition as “very low weight for height, by visible severe wasting, or by the presence of nutritional edema.” (www.WHO.int, 2014).
Stunted growth is also a massive problem in rural Sumba, and we find as many as 70 percent of school children are below the normal average height and weight for their age. As well, anemia is debilitating for children. A mild case can impair intellectual development, lowering a child’s IQ by 10 to 15 points.
Signs of undernourished and malnourished children are visible everywhere in Western Sumba, due to problems in the local diet and availability of food.
“In the developing world, families depend on just one or two staple crops such as bananas, sorghum, or cassava for their entire diet. Poor nutrition contributes to more than half of the nearly 11 million deaths that occur each year in children under five.” —The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
There is just not enough food for everyone, and the standard local meals are low in calories, protein, and micronutrients.
To fight malnutrition, our nutrition program has three parts: school lunches, infant nutrition, and helping farmers.