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HomePublicationsBrowse ListingChild Malnutrition as a Poverty Indicator: An Evaluation in the Context of Different Development Interventions in IndonesiaConclusion and Recommendation

Conclusion and Recommendation

Although income or expenditure level as a poverty indicator appears relevant conceptually, the practical use is limited by its reliability, cost effectiveness, timeliness, and comparability across countries. The use of income or expenditure as poverty indicator has numerous problems particularly in using it in monitoring poverty impacts of agriculture and rural development projects. Prompted by the need for an alternative indicator for ADB rural development project, the paper evaluates the possibility of introducing child malnutrition as an alternative poverty indicator to the commonly used income indicator. The evaluation shows that child malnutrition as poverty indicator to assess the fulfillment of socio-economic development goals and targets is conceptually sound and is more practical. Empirical studies show that child malnutrition is closely linked to income level, the widely used poverty indicator. A study also shows that child malnutrition is reflective and indicative of other desirable development outcomes i.e. gender equality, intra-household distribution, and health environment quality. That the relationship between child malnutrition and poverty is most sensitive at the lower end of the income range makes child malnutrition a good indicator for development intervention projects and programs, which generally target this section of the population.

On the basis of accuracy, anthropometric measurement, i.e. measuring weight and height of children using objective tools, is far more accurate than collecting information on income and/or expenditures based on recall during a survey, particularly in the context of rural households in a subsistence economy. Measurements of child malnutrition do not need to be adjusted for inflation and so are not constrained by any inadequacy of price data. On the basis of cost effectiveness and timeliness of data collection, anthropometric measurements are also superior to an income or expenditure indicator as collecting information on all income sources of all income earning household members or collecting all expenditures of a rural household is extremely laborious and time-consuming.

While conceptually sound, because the concept of using child nutrition as a poverty indicator is relatively new, data availability across the globe is still limited. Using Indonesia as the case to explore the possibility of adopting child malnutrition as a poverty indicator for ADB agriculture and rural development projects, the paper found that there is a high level of awareness of the of linkages between child malnutrition and poverty in Indonesia and several secondary sources of data on child malnutrition are readily available.

For development interventions where the expected poverty impacts are expected to be manifest in the medium or long-term, it is highly feasible to adopt child malnutrition as a poverty indicator. Since baseline information and information on subsequent years are available through secondary sources, change in children’s nutritional status can easily be tracked. However, for short-term intervention projects, the feasibility of tracking the change in children needs to be investigated on a case by case basis due to discontinuation of data collection by some district governments after decentralization in 1999.

While child malnutrition could not universally be adopted as a poverty indicator at this point of time due to lack of universally available data, it's strength and relevance as a poverty indicator, particularly for monitoring poverty impacts on the low income population, is gradually being recognized by governments and international agencies around the globe. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation(FAO) and the International Funds for Agriculture and Development has recently included child malnutrition as one of the indicators to be assessed in their projects and programs. With this growing awareness, it is expected that it will be widely adopted by all governments in the near future.

To raise the commitment of governments and donors to prioritize resources to ensure children's health and to encourage routine data collection by all governments, it is recommended that child malnutrition be included as one of the millennium development goal indicators.

Download this Discussion Paper [ PDF 243.5KB| 22 pages ].




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  1. Choco
    (posted 01 May 2010 / 02:19:03 AM)

    is poverty line:
    -less that $1.25/day per adult, or
    -less than $1.25/day per person in the household (including children), or
    -less than $1.25/day per household?

    What a loophole in the definition! Clarity required please!
  2. naveen
    (posted 17 December 2008 / 08:35:28 PM)

    This information explain clearly about the malnutrition and poverty,
    Most poor people who battle hunger deal with chronic undernourishment and vitamin or mineral deficiencies, which result in stunted growth, weakness and heightened susceptibility to illness.

    Poor children are the most prone to this and are often the victims to malnutrition, deficiencies, diseases and ultimately deaths caused by hunger.

    Today our world is home to 6.6 billion people. The United States is a part of the high-income group of nations which has a population of around 30 crores
  3. ms.gilor araneta -tino
    (posted 02 April 2008 / 05:39:12 AM)

    Conditions tagged as underweight or underheight has been a problem for a longtime. If we dig further poverty is one cause. I am glad that the schools here in the Province of Albay are recipients of the Food for the School program. In its simple way, this is a BIG solution, RICE ON THE TABLE of every family. I'mm sure that this will help increase the nutritional status of our schoolchildren.

The views expressed in this paper are the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), its Board of Directors, or the governments they represent. ADBI does not guarantee the accuracy of the data included in this paper and accepts no responsibility for any consequences of their use. Terminology used may not necessarily be consistent with ADB official terms.

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