During a village health outreach in Indonesia, healthcare workers found Karno was severely underweight and at risk of malnutrition.


When he was taken to the community health centre, they confirmed he was suffering from severe acute malnutrition.

Karno’s mum, Esi, was shocked at the time, thinking her boy Karno was only small in size due to his family genetics. She did not realise his condition was a symptom of acute malnutrition – a serious condition which can impair brain development and cause death.

Severe acute malnutrition is the most extreme and visible form of undernutrition and requires urgent treatment to survive. It is a major cause of death in children under five, and its prevention and treatment are critical to child survival and development.

Karno is likely to recover if he follows the nutritional treatment program. He was given ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF)  - a peanut butter-like paste that is rich in vitamins and energy – to take home.

Esi wanted the best for Karno and took him to the health centre for a check-up every week.
Karno with his mother, Esi. © UNICEFIndonesia

Initially it was difficult as Karno refused to eat. But then they saw his behaviour change. He started asking for and wanting the therapeutic food.

After six weeks, Karno was healthy weighing 8.8kgs with an upper arm circumference measuring in the healthy “green” zone.

Esi also attended parenting cooking classes, held by the community nutritionist, where she was taught how to prepare nutritious and affordable food for her family.
Cooking classes, held by the community nutritionist, where mothers are taught how to prepare nutritious and affordable food for their family. © UNICEF/Indonesia

This UNICEF supported nutrition program, implemented through the District Health Office, began in January 2019, when Karno was first scanned.

Esi wishes Karno, now two-years-old, could have received treatment earlier. She wants all parents in the community to know the importance of detecting and treating malnutrition to prevent this happening to other children.

In Indonesia, children with severe acute malnutrition have previously been treated in health centres and hospitals. This means only a small number of children received the treatment they needed, because many families are unable to accompany their children to the hospital for weeks at a time.
In the Nusa Tenggara Timur Province, more than 15% of children have moderate or severe acute malnutrition, while 51% are stunted, meaning they suffer from chronic malnutrition and are too short for their age. © UNICEF/UN0200181/van Oorsouw

Many children also missed out on initial screening and were unaware that they needed treatment. Through this UNICEF supported program, children with severe acute malnutrition can now receive treatment at home with their families.

This program increases the detection of children with severe acute malnutrition, by screening them in their own communities and improving access to treatment.

So far, this UNICEF supported program has cured more than 650 children have been cured of severe acute malnutrition.

Following the success of this pilot program, the Ministry of Health plans to expand the program to the entire country by 2022, to reach over two million children who suffer from wasting, or acute malnutrition, so children like Karno can survive and thrive.
In Indonesia, severe acute malnutrition affects 5.3% (1.3 million) of children, and moderate acute malnutrition (SAM) affects 6.8% (1.6 million) of children. Indonesia has the fourth largest number of acutely malnourished children in the world. © UNICEF/UN0200189/van Oorsouw

This program is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).
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