Indonesia and World Bank Group to join forces to reduce child stunting and maternal mortality

May 21, 2015

Jakarta, May 21 2015 – In an effort to fight two major health issues – childhood stunting and women dying during childbirth -- Indonesia and the World Bank Group have agreed to seek immediate ways to reduce both preventable health problems. The decision followed a meeting between Indonesia President Joko Widodo and Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim in the presidential palace.

Kim said today that the Bank’s discussions with Indonesian authorities on the health issues will begin in the coming weeks and involve experts who have worked on both stunting and maternal mortality in a range of middle- and low-income countries, including China, Turkey, and Brazil. The two leaders spoke in their meeting of the urgency to tackle the issues, citing statistics that show 37 percent of all children in Indonesia are stunted and a maternal mortality rate of 190 out of 100,000 live births. Both rates are very high for a middle-income country.

 “Stunting not only hurts physical growth – it also diminishes mental capacity,” Kim said today in a speech before students and faculty at the University of Indonesia. “ These children, and this country, pay a devastating price for this entirely preventable situation. It should not be allowed to persist.”

On the country’s high rates of maternal mortality, Kim said: “Indonesia has been able to reduce this slightly in recent years, but the rate is still excessively high considering Indonesia’s economic status and that women have access to universal maternal health coverage. We would very much like to bring the whole of our global knowledge on both of these issues to help Indonesia find solutions and dramatically reduce the incidence of stunting and maternal deaths.”

Kim added: “We are working with countries around the globe, including China, on ways to improve their delivery of health care and we welcome the opportunity to share lessons with Indonesia to see what might work best here,” said Dr. Kim. “We have reorganized the World Bank Group and are now faster and better at sharing global knowledge that can fix problems and improve people’s lives.”

Kim, who is a medical doctor and anthropologist by training, praised President Widodo for deciding to commit more resources to invest in the health of Indonesians through expanded universal coverage. Indonesia now spends only 1.2 percent of GDP on health care, one of the lowest rates in the world.

The announcement on health is part of a broader plan by the World Bank Group to support Indonesia’s development objectives.  Over the next three to four years the Bank will provide more than $11 billion in financing for investments in critical infrastructure including energy, sea ports, better tax collection, and human development programs. The World Bank Group will also work with Indonesia to improve its business climate to attract more investors.

 Kim’s announcement came during his first visit to Indonesia, where he also met with doctors and nurses at a health clinic in Central Java. In a public speech at the University of Indonesia, Dr. Kim reiterated that Indonesia has made remarkable gains by halving the poverty rate to 11.3 percent in 15 years and it can make even more progress if it increases investments in the health of its people. 

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