Malnutrition remains a serious problem in the Philippines, especially now that the country is facing the Covid-19 pandemic.
The pandemic has exacerbated hunger and food insecurities caused by the quarantine in communities. These quarantines, in turn, adversely affected employment and livelihoods, the provision of health and nutrition services, and food supply chains.
The damage to the health, physical growth, and brain development of children with chronic malnutrition – curvature in the first two years of life – is often irreversible, affecting children for life, leaving them with fewer chances of finishing school and becoming highly productive adults .
Growth retardation, iron and iodine deficiency impair the learning ability and intelligence of children. Studies show that populations affected by iodine deficiency have 10 to 15 IQ points less than those who are not.
According to a recent study by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), the current rate of chronic malnutrition in Filipino children between the ages of zero and two is 26.2 percent, its highest level in 10 years.
The Philippines suffer from the triple food burden – malnutrition, hidden hunger or lack of essential nutrients and obesity.
One third of Filipino children are stunted (light weight for age), making the Philippines one of the 10 countries with the highest number of stunted children in the world.
“Hidden hunger” diseases such as iron and iodine deficiency still affect babies and pregnant mothers.
Childhood obesity is now on the rise, with almost one in ten children aged 11 to 19 currently suffering from overweight or obesity. The rise in the number of overweight and obese children is being driven by the marketing of highly processed products in the country.
The National Nutrition Council, UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Fund) and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) have just completed the 47th Nutrition Month commemoration in the Philippines.
The theme “Malnutrisyon patuloy na labanan, First 1000 Days of Tutukan!” Highlights the importance of the first 1000 days in a baby’s life, a golden opportunity to lay the foundations for optimal health, growth and neurological development with benefits that extend into adulthood .
Nutrition Month called for stakeholders to work together to support these challenges and the implementation of the First 1,000 Days of Life Strategy and the Philippine Nutrition Action Plan (PPAN).
“The Nutrition Month theme reaffirms the call for continued cross-sectoral efforts to address malnutrition using the Philippine Action Plan on Nutrition as a national framework,” said Deputy Secretary and Executive Director Dr. Azucena M. Dayanghirang of the National Food Council.
Dr. Dayanghirang said the issue highlights the need to step up interventions in the first 1,000 days through increased implementation of Republic Act 11148 or the Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Mag-Nanay Act, particularly in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.
As a donor partner, Korea actively supports the Philippines’ efforts to improve the nutrition of young children and infants through KOICA.
This work focuses on enabling a responsive political and political environment, providing high quality and comprehensive nutrition and health services to women, newborns and children, and the care practices of pregnant women, mothers and caregivers in relation to nutrition and maternal and child health to improve.
“The Korean government has provided various forms of aid in the Philippines, including Mindanao, where one of the priority areas of aid is to extend critical action in the first 1,000 days of life. We hope that these efforts will alleviate malnutrition and help create better lives for children, ”said Korean Ambassador to the Philippines, Inchul Kim.
Unicef in the Philippines has worked at various levels of government to address the technical, financial and capacity gaps that cause inequality, social exclusion and health system bottlenecks. The UN Children’s Rights Agency uses evidence-based advocacy to attract partners and involve local communities.
“At the end of this year’s Nutrition Month, I urge all interest groups and stakeholders to re-imagine what nutrition means for children in times of Covid-19. In order for the Philippines to achieve the goal of the optimal growth and development of every Filipino child in all sectors including health, agriculture and food systems, WASH [water, sanitation and hygiene]and social protection must come together to implement effective nutritional interventions for every child, ”said Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov, Unicef’s Philippine representative.
Image courtesy of pexels.com