Through our project partner, the Sumatra Merang Peatland Project (SMPP) in Indonesia, Ecosphere+ clients are helping to improve healthcare access and quality for families. In addition to programmes set up to battle COVID-19 and understand community health concerns, SMPP is developing a programme for maternal and child health, specifically focused on anti-stunting.
In Indonesia, approximately 37% (nearly 9 million) of children under five years old are stunted, according to Indonesia’s Basic Health Statistics, and the country has the fifth highest prevalence of stunting in the world. Stunted children suffer from a range of problems, including lowered intelligence and compromised immune systems. These effects have lifelong consequences and can decrease productivity and long-term health. At a societal level, a high prevalence of stunting hinders economic growth, increases poverty levels and exacerbates inequalities.
In 2017, the Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla called for a National Strategy to Accelerate Stunting Prevention, making it a key piece of the country’s National Development Plan for 2020-2025. The plan calls for efforts in rural areas to reduce stunting by 14% by 2025. With Musi Banyuasin District (the district where SMPP is located) included in this programme, anti-stunting is a significant priority for all villages in the area. The district head of Musi Banyuasin announced the intention to support stunting prevention programmes in February 2020. However, at the remote villages surrounding SMPP, resources for anti-stunting programmes are limited, but much can be done by partnering with local health care workers and educating families.
This is where Ecosphere+ clients can play a transformative role. In collaboration with the 1,000 Days Fund, the project has developed a comprehensive anti-stunting programme for local villages. The 1,000 Days Fund was launched in 2018 to develop innovative and cost-effective solutions to end stunting in Indonesia. The organisation has experience working with local governments, local health workers and community leaders across Indonesia in more than 16 provinces. Interventions are most effective during the first 1,000 days of life for infants and include a focus on educating mothers on proper hygiene, sanitation, breastfeeding and nutritional practices before and after birth. SMPP’s anti-stunting programme aims to improve awareness of stunting issues among mothers, midwives and health assistants by focusing on providing educational tools and other resources that advance the adoption of maternal and infant health best-practices.
The launch of the SMPP anti-stunting programme was originally planned for March 2020 in one of the local villages. However, the launch was postponed due to the pandemic, and recently launched on November 4th following strict guidance for community gatherings and physical distancing measures. Implementation of the program under these challenging conditions is only possible because of the strong relationships with healthcare workers and relevant stakeholders the project has built through its COVID-19 response and efforts to strengthen local health infrastructure.
SMPP’s anti-stunting program is a great example of the transformative potential of climate finance, which addresses climate risk in a holistic manner. Communities with access to healthcare have a greater ability to focus on education and improve their economic well-being. Ultimately, a healthy community safeguards a healthy environment, making local stakeholders more supportive of project activities that regenerate and protect the vulnerable peatland ecosystem.