They’re in this for the long haul: the 1000Days Fund’s commitment to community health in Indonesia

Since the pandemic began, the 1000Days Fund has pivoted to COVID Relief, focusing on distributing soap and PPE to hospitals and communities in Flores, an island in East Nusa Tenggara. But such efforts will also contribute to the charity’s long-term efforts in reducing stunting in Indonesian children through better nutrition and public health.

Stunting is a condition that arises from prolonged under-nutrition and affects physical and brain development. It’s defined as shortness in height for a child’s age and can only be diagnosed by comparing the child’s measurements to standardized growth charts.

Video explaining the effect of 1000DaysFund’s interventions to reduce stunting in East Nusa Tenggara. (Source: 1000days Fund website)

“1 in 3 of Indonesia’s children under the age of five years old are stunted. Stunting robs young children of their full potential. Stunted children on average perform worse at school than their non-stunted counterparts, are more likely to be unemployed as adults, are at higher risk of getting diseases like diabetes and hypertension. They are vulnerable to being trapped in an inter-generational cycle of poverty. This is unjust as stunting is completely preventable.” - 1000DaysFund

In 2019, the Jakarta Post called stunting one of Indonesia’s most neglected issues. Fortunately, there’s an organisation that’s been working on this for years. The 1000Days Fund is an NGO that works across 16 provinces, in close collaboration with local governments and NGOs to strengthen their health systems. Their aim is to get Indonesia to adopt a zero stunting pledge by 2030. They focus on improving the nutritional and health conditions that Indonesian children and mothers experience in the first 1000 days of the child’s life. This period from conception to age 2, is crucial for the child’s later development.

However, the 1000Days Fund has recently pivoted to COVID-19 relief to address the urgent needs brought about by the pandemic. In March, before the pandemic hit Flores, an island part of the East Nusa Tenggara province of Indonesia, the 1000Days Fund reorganised and began to source for soap to distribute to villages in Flores. They eventually managed to distribute 2 tonnes of soap across 27 villages. Beyond that, they’ve acquired and distributed 800 Hazmat suits, 150 surgical gowns, 660 cloth masks, 1516 surgical masks, 500 N95s, 350 face shields, 200 pairs reusable gloves, 300 pairs surgical gloves, 10 non-contact thermometers, 50 pairs of boots, 550 surgeon caps, 30 liters of H2O2 and 300 liters of disinfectant.

Health workers, Elda and Atsy, dressed head-to-toe in PPE provided by the 1000Days Fund, and holding just some of the ‘Thank you!’ cards from neighbors and friends, preparing to receive patients at the health center. (Source: 1000Days Fund fundraiser page)

We’ve listed 1000Days Fund as one of our featured charities because we believe the work they are doing is especially crucial now but will also position them to be even more effective in their long-term anti-stunting work once the pandemic passes.

In a recent feature, co-founder Zack Petersen explained that the better hygiene habits formed during the pandemic can have positive knock-on effects post-pandemic. He points out that: “in Labuan Bajo, East Nusa Tenggara, reported instances of diarrhea have dropped from 79 cases in April 2019 to 23 in April 2020. There were 97 reported cases in May 2019 and four so far in May 2020.” As a result, the 1000Days team is focused on making permanent these positive hand hygiene habits and using their influence to get support from officials for anti-stunting interventions later in the year.

I can’t stress enough how important the work they’re doing is, and how likely it is that their current work will reap dividends for years to come.

If you’re thinking of donating to support their general work to prevent stunting you can check out their website here. For donations towards COVID-Relief efforts in Flores, give to their fundraiser here.