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Almost 12% of displaced children malnourished

Bloomberg - April 15, 2005

Soraya Permatasari, Jakarta – Malnutrition was found in almost 12 percent of children in Indonesia's Aceh region who were displaced by the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami, according to a survey by the government and aid agencies.

The survey in February and March of 4,030 children age 6 months to 5 years showed that wasting, or acute malnutrition, was found in 11.6 percent of displaced children and 11.4 percent of the region's remaining children, the United Nations Children's Fund, Unicef, said today in an e-mailed statement.

While the "immediate" nutritional needs in tsunami-affected areas have been met, the finding of stunted growth in 38 percent of Aceh's children under 5 shows poor nutrition is a chronic problem related to poverty, inadequate sanitation and lack of security, Unicef said. Continued attention to the region is necessary, it said.

Joining Unicef in the survey were the Ministry of Health, Indonesia's Nutrition Research Development Center, the UN's World Food Program and several non-government organizations. The agencies didn't provide data on malnutrition among children in Aceh before the disaster. Indonesia was the worst-affected of the 12 Indian Ocean nations hit by the tsunami.

The survey of 13 tsunami-affected districts on the north, east and west coasts of Aceh province also showed a high rate of illness among children under 5, Unicef said. In the two weeks preceding the survey, cough affected 28 to 65 percent in that age group, fever affected 26 to 74 percent, and 7 to 52 percent were ill with diarrhea.


More than 220,000 in the 12 countries have been listed as dead or missing since the magnitude-9 earthquake in December triggered giant waves that devastated coastal areas. Indonesia had 165,932 dead or missing as of yesterday, the country's National Coordination Agency for Disaster Relief said in a faxed statement. There are 594,356 displaced people, the agency said.

The Indonesian government last month said the cost of rebuilding roads, power plants, buildings and other infrastructure destroyed by the disaster may reach 45 trillion rupiah ($4.7 billion).

Aceh, located near the Strait of Malacca, is a conflict area where the Indonesian government has been fighting separatists for almost three decades. The province was previously closed to overseas visitors until the disaster forced the government to allow relief agencies and international military units to enter the region to distribute aid.