Stunting, the worst form of malnutrition, has been a pervasive concern among Filipino children. In 2019, 28.8% of children below five years old experience malnutrition due to prolonged hunger while the stunting rate among children two years old and below is at 21.9% according to the report of the Department of Science and Technology – Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI).
Atty. Alberto Muyot, Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children Philippines, said that stunting is an irreversible condition which leads to the severe damage and impairment of a child’s physical and brain development, and adult productivity.
To help address the problem and in observance of the Nutrition Month, Save the Children Philippines has launched Project NURTURE (Nutrition among Urban Poor through Unified Response) in Villareal, Samar on July 6, 2020 to protect deprived and marginalized children from chronic and acute malnutrition.
“Save the Children, aims to help prevent cases of stunting among children, and provide guidance and support to parents, communities, and the local government units (LGUs) on multi-sectoral approaches to nutrition programs,” said Muyot.
Project NURTURE was successfully implemented in eight deprived barangays in Navotas City from 2016 to 2019 by reducing cases of undernutrition among children through integration of social protection such as conditional cash transfers, livelihood trainings, parent education and targeted dietary supplementation feeding programs to nutrition interventions.
Meanwhile, Muyot also aired concern on the rising cases of undernutrition as unemployment rate swelled to 17.7% in April, accounting to 7.3 million Filipinos in the labor force – many of which reportedly lost their jobs due to the imposition of community quarantine restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Unemployment in the time of health crisis adversely impacts the vulnerable and marginalized, especially children, pregnant and lactating mothers, those with disabilities, and the poorest of the poor as the loss of income of household providers, breadwinners means less provision of food,” said Muyot.
Dr. Amado Parawan, Health and Nutrition Advisor of Save the Children Philippines, said “we must understand that stunting is not hereditary and poses permanent risks to children’s health and well-being.”
He added that “it is ironic that most of the stunted children belong to households in farming and fishing communities who are actually the producers of our food but remain as one of the country’s poorest families.”
Save the Children Philippines works in partnership with the Department of Health (DOH), the National Nutrition Council, and the LGUs in the implementation of maternal, newborn, and child health and nutrition programs to address undernutrition among children through the provision of necessary trainings to Barangay Health Workers, Barangay Nutrition Scholars and health center staff.
The child rights group is also credited in the enactment of the First 1,000 Days Law (Republic Act No. 11148), known as the “Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Mag- Nanay Act” in November 2019 that seeks to reduce malnutrition rates by focusing on high-impact and evidence-based nutrition interventions and programs such as exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, complementary feeding, and continued breastfeeding for the next two years of a child and beyond, and micronutrient supplementation.