Video of mother feeding baby coffee mix piques Indonesian president on malnutrition

Dandy Koswaraputra and Pizaro Gozali Idrus
Video of mother feeding baby coffee mix piques Indonesian president on malnutrition A toddler rests before receiving a vaccination during a national immunization program for children program in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, June 9, 2022.
Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP

A TikTok video of a mother saying she fed her infant baby premixed sachets of instant coffee because they contained milk drew the Indonesian president’s attention to the issue of malnutrition among the country’s children.

The video was a stark example of malnutrition among Indonesia’s children, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said at an event in late January. Malnutrition causes stunting, which is characterized by short stature in children younger than 5 years old.

More than 6 million Indonesian children under the age of 5 are stunted, national data shows.

“I was watching [a TikTok video] that attracted a lot of people’s attention, of a mother who feeds a 7-month-old baby coffee milk sachets ... be careful. A child’s kidney and heart are not strong enough,” he said.

“She wanted to give her child milk.”

Jokowi was referring to what are called 3-in-1 sachets that contain instant coffee, sugar and powdered milk, which are usually mixed with water to make a coffee drink.

The short video features the unidentified mother saying: “I couldn’t afford formula milk for my baby because it’s expensive. Luckily, this coffee sachet has milk too.”

The video caused an uproar and has been watched 2.6 million times.

Indonesia needed to do far better to reduce stunting among children under five to 14% by the end of next year, from 21.6% last year, Jokowi said.

“The target is 14% in 2024 – we must be able to achieve it,” Jokowi said. “I am sure through collaboration, the figure is possible to achieve as long as everyone works together.”

Jokowi said stunting was a serious problem that needed to be addressed immediately, adding it could affect the quality of human resources such as children’s physical condition and mental acuity.

The president made these comments at the opening of the National Work Meeting for the Family Development, Population and Family Planning Program and Stunting Reduction.

Low nutritional literacy

The viral video showed that the public lacked knowledge of proper diets for children, said Iin Fatmawati, a nutritionist at the Jakarta Veterans National Development University. It also spotlighted poverty.

“Basically, the government and health workers have a role in educating people and increasing public knowledge,” Iin told BenarNews.

Dicky Budiman, an epidemiologist at Griffith University in Australia, said proper communication could have prevented the mother from feeding her baby the 3-in-1 coffee drink.

“Risk communication in the context of malnutrition is inadequate, it’s too general,” Dicky told BenarNews.

Iin agreed.

“The mother should have been able to feed her baby with healthy food,” she said. “What needs to be done is to stay focused on the first thousand days of life, starting from before pregnancy until the child is 2 years old.”

Lawmaker Netty Prasetiyani said the video was upsetting, especially to government officials who set an annual health budget.

“This incident shows that education about healthy food is still very far from the reach of the majority of Indonesians, even though the government has a health promotion program with a large budget,” Netty told BenarNews.

She called on the government to work hard to reach out to people by providing frequent nutrition education. Education must be on target and evenly distributed, especially in remote rural areas, she added.

Effort to reduce rates

Another lawmaker, Darul Siska, expressed optimism about Jokowi’s target of reducing the stunting rate to 14% by 2024, and noted that efforts could be aided by a return to normal from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Educating all levels of society on handling stunting and improving the quality of human resources are important to achieve this target,” Darul told BenarNews.

For 2023, the Indonesian Ministry of Health hopes to reduce the stunting rate in the world’s fourth most populous country to 17%.

The ministry will also increase the number of tools to measure toddler growth, he said. Weight measurement is one of the early warnings to prevent stunting in babies.

“I hope we can catch up to the 17% decline this year so that we can take advantage of the momentum of last year’s 21.6% decline,” Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said on Friday.


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