Malnutrition reduction program targets babies, parents, LGUs
MANILA, Philippines — Hungry babies.
No parents wish to ever see their child hungry; unfortunately, this remains a daily reality for many Filipino families.
The Philippines — through government and non-governmental organizations — has been carrying out different supplementary feeding programs in the past years. Most of these, however, benefit preschoolers and elementary schoolchildren.
But what happens to undernourished infants?
Malnutrition among Filipino children under 5 years old has seen little change in the past decade, the 2013 National Nutrition Survey revealed. In fact, the Philippines had the 5th highest number of low birthweight babies in the world, according to a 2013 UNICEF report.
|Prevalence of malnutrition among Filipino children aged 0-5|
(Source: 2013 NNS)
Based on these figures, it is unlikely for the Philippines to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of underweight children, the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST) reported.
The survey found that children entering their second year in life had the “sharpest increases in underweight,” with most of them belonging to poor families in rural areas.
Across all regions, MIMAROPA had the highest underweight prevalence among children under 5 years old, followed by Western Visayas and the Bicol region.
Without proper intervention, can you picture the life that awaits these children?
Technology, food, education
Malnutrition among children under 5 years old may not directly lead to death, but since these children have weaker immune systems, they become more vulnerable to deadly yet preventable and curable diseases like pneumonia, malaria, and diarrhea.
To address such problems, FNRI-DOST implemented the Malnutrition Reduction Program (MRP), a program aiming to “help lessen the impact of the persistent problem of malnutrition,” said Dr Mario Capanzana, FNRI director.
MRP was first launched in 2011 under its old name “DOST PINOY,” which stands for “Package for the Improvement of Nutrition of Young Children.”
The program targets children aged 6 months to two years old, as well as their parents. “It works using a 3-pronged approach through a mix of intervention on local technology, supplementary feeding, and nutrition education,” Capanzana explained.
The local technology component includes the use of complementary foods made of rice and mongo, which is then used for supplementary feeding programs lasting for 120 days.
“While children attend the supplementary feeding program, their parents and caregivers are being taught basic concepts on meal planning and nutrition,” Capanzana added.
The program was piloted in the provinces of Leyte, Iloilo, Antique, and Occidental Mindoro, which were selected based on the National Nutrition Survey, according to Rowena Viajar, science research specialist at FNRI.
This year, the program aims to strengthen its efforts. “Just last September, we finished the data collection in Jaro, Leyte and Basay, Samar. Our feeding program there also just finished,” Viajar added. She shared that MRP has also been carried out in Palawan and Bulacan, while other provinces have been scheduled for training.
Aside from nutrition lessons for parents, the program also provides nutrition training for local government units (LGUs) across the country. “They may request for training,” Viajar said.
In the future, FNRI plans to work with LGUs in crafting an ordinance which would institutionalize MRP across municipalities and provinces. LGUs will be tasked to fund and sustain the program.
Since MRP is relatively new, its coverage is still limited. Until then, should another baby cry out of hunger?
“The problem may come at the end of feeding programs. What happens to the children then?” asked Viajar, stressing the need for parents to take on the lead role in ensuring that their children’s nutritional needs are properly met. – Rappler.com
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