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Encouraging fathers to take an active role in child development to tackle malnutrition in Indonesia

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Poverty in Indonesia is a key driver of malnutrition. A lack of understanding and knowledge around child feeding also contributes to sustained high rates of malnutrition.

Our first programme in Indonesia, together with partners Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Asia Philanthropy Circle, Save the Children and Nutrition International, aims to support the Government of Indonesia to realise its stunting reduction goals.

Interventions include improving understanding around nutrition and water, sanitation and hygiene through social and behaviour change interventions, encouraging breastfeeding and strengthening health services by providing training for health workers. The programme also tackles the high rates of anaemia among teenagers through iron and folic acid supplementation in schools.

In particular, the programme focuses on the father’s role in childhood development.

It is never enough for the mother to be the only one responsible for nurturing children under five, even during pregnancy. In fact, research study conducted in 2008 (Tran, 2008) indicates that children with care from their fathers will have 1.7 times less risk of becoming stunted than their peers with minimal involvement from their fathers.

The programme therefore trains male nutrition champions and encourages all nutrition champions to encourage fathers to share responsibility for making sure that their children get enough care and attention from their parents.

In one Posyandu (a community health centre, led by local volunteers) in West Bandung district, Ahmad Budi, father of a two-month-old daughter, is a male figure who has regularly joined his wife in participating programme sessions. To him, the programme can provide the caregivers with essential information from different perspectives, and mothers and caregivers can directly participate in the sessions.

He has been impressed with topics such as balanced diets and unhealthy snacks, which inspire him to implement what he has learned about the topics.

Ahmad Budhi, head of Cirawamekar sub-village in West Bandung district, who has been regularly accompanying his wife and children attending Posyandu session. ©Save the Children
I have gradually learned with the programme and have implemented this with our child. It is important to make sure that a healthy diet with nutritious food is practiced, as it will greatly impact my child's development. The programme uses a different approach that includes games in the process and thus can engage participants. At first, I did not know what sessions in Posyandu days were, thinking they were just for monitoring the growth of the children.

As the head of Cirawamekar Village, Ahmad perceived his involvement not only as a father but also as a village head, serving two roles at the same time: educating himself as a parent and providing a good example to the local villagers about the importance of father figure involvement in parenting.

It is important to make sure that a healthy diet with nutritious food is practiced, as it will greatly impact my child's development and help him avoid being stunted.

Read more about our programme in Indonesia here.