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Double burden: stunting and obesity in Indonesia

According to a new report by UNICEF, ASEAN and WHO, 12 per cent of children in Indonesia suffer from wasting while a further 12 per cent are overweight. Known as the ‘double burden of malnutrition’, this trend cuts across social groups and is increasingly common in middle-income countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.

Double burden means the coexistence of undernutrition and overnutrition in the same country, district, community and household. This presents a severe public health challenge. While undernutrition is a major contributing factor to child illness, disability and death, overnutrition in childhood can lead to diet-related non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease in later life.

Changing lifestyles owing to urbanization, a higher participation of women in the workforce and increasing consumption of energy dense processed foods are some factors that have led to a rapid rise in overweight children.

“Many countries in South East Asia have seen impressive economic gains in the last decade, lifting thousands of children out of poverty,” said Christiane Rudert, Regional Nutrition Adviser for UNICEF East Asia and Pacific. “However, at the same time we have seen the rise of conditions like obesity, previously associated with high income countries. Asian children are now at risk of malnutrition from both ends of the spectrum.”


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