Child development issue on the rise: Minister

Azlan Othman

Brunei Darussalam has seen an increase in the number of cases referred to the Child Development Centre (CDC) over a decade in 2020 (766 cases), compared to 2010 (400 cases).

Meanwhile, there were 218 reported autism cases in 2020 compared to 36 in 2011. In early March this year, CDC diagnosed 38 new autism cases.

This was stated by Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar during the official opening of the Child Development Centre (CDC), in Kiarong yesterday.

“Over the past 20 years, the number of children who have received and are still undergoing treatment at CDC has exceeded 7,000. Out of the figure, some 2,300 exhibit autistic traits, 430 with celebral palsy, 400 with Down Syndrome, and 200 with hearing impairment.”

The minister added that Brunei Darussalam is not only focussing on children’s survival and a reduction in child mortality rate but also in ensuring optimum child development with best health quality, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals and Brunei Vision 2035.

In general, child development begins during pre-conception period till the first year of a child’s life. Rapid mental development is related to cognitive development and socio-economy. This period must be best utilised in changing developmental outcome of every child, the minister said, adding that it is also critical in mental development where outside factors play crucial roles. “Negative experiences, adversity and pressure during early childhood can give lifelong effect in terms of cognitive and socio-economic development.”

Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar at the official opening of Child Development Centre in Kampong Kiarong yesterday.
Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar in a group photo with MoH officials and sponsors. PHOTOS: BAHYIAH BAKIR

Meanwhile, Head of Community Paediatric Unit and Child Development Centre Dr Hajah Mawarni binti Haji Abdul Hamid said the CDC with the support from stakeholders, aims to assist children in leading a healthy life by intervening early with holistic treatment in the back of comprehensive healthcare facilities.

The centre will also lead in tackling child development issues including its clinical capacity and capabilities in carrying out scientific and epidemiological studies in assisting service planning.

The event continued with the presentation of certificates of appreciation to companies and individuals that contributed to the project and a tree planting ceremony as well as a tour of five bungalows in the area by the minister.

Acting Permanent Secretary at the MoH Dr Haji Zulaidi bin Haji Abdul Latif, Permanent Secretary (Community and Culture) at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports Hajah Nor Ashikin binti Haji Johari, Deputy Permanent Secretary (Policy and Management) at the MoH Haji Maswadi bin Haji Mohsin and senior officers were also present.

The construction for the CDC building began in December 2019 and was completed late last year at a cost of over BND1.2 million.

Over BND400,000 was received from sponsors including Brunei Shell Petroleum Co Sdn Bhd, Employees Trust Fund, Syarikat Intracorp, Ideal Multifeed Farm (Brunei) Sdn Bhd, Hong Kiat Trading and Company, Osco Sdn Bhd, D’Sunlit Sdn Bhd, Lotus Light Charity Society, Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam, Legislative Council member Yang Berhormat Ong Tiong Oh, Medicorp, The Impian Project, KN Nursery, Baiduri Bank Berhad, Pharmakho, Kosi Sdn Bhd and Medix Supplier.