To help children supported by the Sumba Foundation stay healthy and nourished, health care company Abbott has donated its nutritional product for children, PediaSure. Direct Relief worked with Abbott in Indonesia to arrange for an in-country drop shipment of more than 1,100 cans of the nutritional product, which was delivered last week.
The Sumba Foundation is a nonprofit community health and development organization established to provide assistance to the population of the Indonesian island of Sumba. Located between Bali and West Timor, Sumba is one of the closest Indonesian islands to Australia. The island, which has an estimated population of close to 700,000, is exceptionally beautiful but one of the poorest in the entire Indonesian Archipelago.
Sumba is the only island in Indonesia where a majority of the population still closely follows ancestral traditions dating back thousands of years. Studied by anthropologists and featured in National Geographic and on the Discovery Channel, the Sumbanese people are best known for their megalithic stone grave sites, unusual peaked bamboo and thatch houses, and colorful rituals and ceremonies.
Improving Access to Healthcare in Sumba
In the remote regions of Sumba, outside the two main towns, most of the people live without access to clean water, basic healthcare services, or education. Malnutrition is widespread, malaria is rampant, and infant and child mortality is high. This is the case for the majority of residents who live in western Sumba where the foundation focuses its development work.
The goal of the Sumba Foundation is to improve the lives of the Sumbanese population and offer long-term solutions to some of their most pressing challenges without disrupting their cultural traditions. To accomplish this, the foundation focuses its efforts on providing primary healthcare services with a special emphasis on malnutrition and malaria, increasing access to potable water, improving sanitation systems, and increasing education opportunities.
In 2003, the foundation established its first medical clinic and has subsequently constructed four additional facilities in the region. These five outpatient clinics are staffed primarily by nurses and community health workers and serve a total population of approximately 20,000 people. Over the years, Direct Relief has provided $177,000 of medications, supplies, and equipment items to the clinics.
Combating Malnutrition to Keep Children Healthy
The diet in Sumba consists primarily of cassava, supplemented with corn and rice. Cassava is a low-protein starchy staple, and although it is tasty and filling, it is not highly nutritious. In fact, cassava has the lowest protein-to-energy ratio of any staple crop and a diet based on cassava typically provides less than 30 percent of the minimum daily requirement for protein and only 10-20 percent of the required amounts of iron, zinc, vitamin A, and vitamin E. This limited diet often results in chronic protein and micronutrient deficiencies which can have detrimental short- and long-term effects.
In an effort to combat the high levels of malnutrition among the local population, especially young children, the Sumba Foundation started a nutrition education teaching program in 2008 that is now being taught in 13 foundation-supported schools. They also established direct intervention protocols to be used in severe cases of malnutrition which involve teaching mothers about the importance of healthy food, as well as how to make nutritious meals for their families. In addition, powdered milk, eggs, and vegetables are provided to families until the affected child or children reach a healthy weight to height ratio.
This recent donation of PediaSure will help support the Sumba Foundation’s ongoing nutrition programs.