RI, UNICEF to improve child protection, education – Jakarta Post

The National Development Planning Board (Bappenas) and the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) have officially launched “Country Program Action Plans for 2016-2020” as a guideline to address child disparity and poverty.

After the signing ceremony with Bappenas head Sofyan Djalil in Jakarta on Monday, the UNICEF representative for Indonesia, Gunilla Olsson, explained that this action plan was a continuation of the previous five-year program, with new emphasis including child protection, early childhood education and emergency preparedness and disaster risk reduction.

Child protection actions include aligning the country’s current laws and policies with international child protection standards, improving the quality of child protection services and preventing such behaviors that ignore or permit violence against children, including child marriage.

In education, both institutions aim to address the cost barriers associated with schooling by expanding compulsory education to 12 years and making improvements related to access and the quality of school-based education for children with disabilities.

In the realm of child survival and development, Sofyan said that the program would pay more attention to the children’s food and nutrient intake in their first 1,000 days of life and promote the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for newborns.

Sofyan also wants the plan to address issues of malnutrition, especially stunting, which remains a major problem despite the country’s economic growth rates in recent years.

The 2014 Global Nutrition Report indicates that as many as 37 percent of Indonesian children under five are too short for their age, a condition known a stunting. The situation has placed Indonesia among the 31 countries in the world listed as unlikely to meet global targets for reducing malnutrition by 2025.

“Our economic growth is increasing but more that 30 percent of children in Indonesia are suffering from stunted growth. It’s really unexpected. Something is wrong with their nutrition intake,” Sofyan said, before proceeding to blame the excessive consumption of instant noodles and the fading culture of eating vegetables.

He further criticized the government’s complicated bureaucracy with regard to the issuing of birth certificates, saying that authority for the issuance of birth certificates should be taken from the regional Population and Civil Registration Agency and granted to hospitals or community health centers (Puskesmas).

“So, babies may obtain a birth certificate directly after birth. It’s crucial for children. We can’t continue with such a complicated bureaucracy,” Sofyan said.

He mentioned that the Banyuwangi regency in East Java, for example, had instigated a public service program in 2013, which continues to authorize all community health centers, two regional hospitals and five private hospitals in the area to issue birth certificates on the day that a baby is born.

“We hope that this beneficial practice can be used as a reference for UNICEF actions,” Sofyan said.

In the realm of education, Sofyan emphasized school dropouts, saying that most of the dropouts had not been caused by economic conditions but by a discouraging atmosphere within schools, such as those caused by an unacceptable curriculum, bullying by friends — mostly seniors — and teachers.

The latest study by UNICEF has revealed that 50 percent of Indonesian youth aged between 13 and 15 years had experienced school bullying.

Another study conducted by Plan International and the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) found that 84 percent of children in Indonesia had experienced some form of violence in schools, including bullying. (foy)