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PH fails to halve child malnutrition within 25 years

Fritzie Rodriguez

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PH fails to halve child malnutrition within 25 years
The Philippines did not reach its target of reducing child malnutrition as part of the Millennium Development Goals

MANILA, Philippines – Time is up.

Fifteen years ago, countries worldwide agreed to work on 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) focusing on poverty, health, education, environment, and gender equality.

Topping the list of the MDGs is halving the number of underweight children under age 5.

From 27.3% in 1990, the percentage of underweight children in the Philippines had to go down to 13.6% by 2015. The country, however, failed to reach its target, latest data from the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) revealed.

Proportion of underweight Filipino children under 5 years old

Source: 2015 National Nutrition Survey
1990 MDG target 2015
27.3% 13.6% 21.5%

Although there is a decrease in the past 25 years, malnutrition rates in recent years have remained virtually unchanged, with even a slight increase in 2015.

Prevalence of underweight-for-age among Filipino children under age 5
2005 2013 2015
20% 20% 21.5%

Stunting – being too short for one’s age – also remains a problem. It not only affects physical health, but also one’s mental development. Its effects are irreversible and may last until adulthood, ultimately affecting one’s productivity in the long run.

Prevalence of stunting (being too short for one’s age) among Filipino children under age 5
2005 2013 2015
32.9% 30.3% 33.4%
Prevalence of wasting (being too thin for one’s height) among Filipino children under age 5
2005 2013 2015
5.8% 8% 7.1%

To address this issue, the Philippines has been depending on supplementary feeding programs in elementary schools and pre-schools. The programs are managed by the Department of Education and the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Some advocates, however, question whether feeding programs are enough. They point out that poor nutrition roots from bigger problems linked to livelihood, education, and food security.


On the bright side, the FNRI observed a drop in the prevalence of overweight Filipino children in the past 3 years. From 5.1% in 2013, it went down to 3.9% in 2015.

The bigger picture, however, reveals an upward trend in the past 25 years.

Prevalence of overweight Filipino children under age 5
1990 2005 2015
1.1% 2.9% 3.9%

The National Capital Region (NCR) and Central Luzon had the highest prevalence of overweight children across all regions.

The survey also found that there are more overweight children in urban areas, while more underweight and stunted children live in rural areas.

In terms of class, most overweight children come from the richest group, while more underweight kids hail from the poorest families.

Being overweight and underweight, however, are both forms of malnutrition that should be resolved regardless of social class. 

Where in PH

In 2015, Region IV-B (MIMAROPA) had the highest prevalence of underweight children at 31.8%, exceeding the national average of 21.5%. MIMAROPA is followed by Eastern Visayas and Bicol.

Meanwhile, the NCR had the lowest prevalence at 15.1%.

As for stunting, the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) had the highest rate at 45.2%, topping the national average of 33.4%. 

In 2016, governments all over the world begin addressing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which also aim to “end hunger, achieve food security and adequate nutrition for all, and promote sustainable agriculture.” The SDGs were adopted last September after 3 years of tough negotiations.

The Philippines has until 2030 to achieve this new set of goals. Will it succeed this time around?

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