MANILA, Philippines – Hunger and malnutrition are still one of the biggest problems in the country, and they affect children the most.
According to World Vision, malnutrition is the underlying cause of at least 35% of deaths among children under 5 years old.
The absence of proper nutrition in the first 1,000 days of life, or from pregnancy to the 2 years old, leads to irreversible effects on children.
The Philippines ranks 28th in the world when it comes to hunger, according to the Global Hunger Index (GHI). It is also included in the 38 countries that account for 90% of the global burden of malnutrition.
Despite efforts from the government and various non-governmental groups, Unicef reported in 2013 that the Philippines shows “insufficient progress” in putting an end to malnutrition and hunger.
Are feeding programs sustainable?
Feeding programs are being done in several communities in the country. Another are soup kitchens that can be seen around the Metro. These programs cater to the poor and hungry citizens.
Despite its contribution to ease the lives of people, feeding programs should not be the only option for malnourished children in communities, according to some netizens.
In observance of the World Health Day on Monday, April 7, Rappler held an online conversation on child malnutrition in the Philippines.
Netizens said education can be one of the many ways to prevent malnutrition. Community-based education can go farther than feeding programs that are not held every day. This can lead to sustainability since it will help mobilize people to attain their needs.
@MovePH Educ is vital. Only when people are aware of the problem and that there exists a sol'n for it, we can mobilize them to take part.— Prince Eduard Ragasa (@iamprinceduard) April 7, 2014
@MovePH Educate. Coordinate. Mobilize. Educate the people, coordinate efforts of sectors and mobilize the people to fight malnutrition.— Prince Eduard Ragasa (@iamprinceduard) April 7, 2014
Let's start from the grassroots, education & awareness are two of the basic things we must first take to gradually solve the problem @moveph— #YES2RH (@waaafwaf) April 7, 2014
Government’s vital role
The Philippine government’s priority in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is to “eradicate extreme hunger and poverty.”
The MDGs target to “reduce by half the proportion” the people who suffer from hunger, specifically underweight children under 5 years old. Closely related to this is the number four goal which is to “reduce child mortality.”
Netizens affirm the important role of the government, whether national or local, in putting an end to child malnutrition. The objectives and means should be clear, according to one user.
Basic social services and policies concerning health and nutrition should be prioritized. This year, the social services sector was allotted P698.8 billion or 34.8% of the entire national budget. The Aquino administration said it is seeking to expand universal health care coverage.
Improving health facilities and policies will enhance access to health services and contribute to the eradication of malnutrition.
Netizens said the government can also tap several resources available, such as agriculture, to address the lack of food sources. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), healthy nutrition starts with better agriculture.
@MovePH Find and try to sustain alternative healthy food sources especially in urban communities. There are a lot of studies done re: this— Jodesz Gavilan (@jodeszgavilan) April 7, 2014
In the recent budget allocation, the Department of Agriculture (DA) increased the funding of farm-to-market roads (FMRs) from P5.2 to P12 biliion. FMRs will improve the transaction and mobility of goods and people. The DA dubbed FMRs as the “catalysts in improving rural economy.”
Some netizens also noted that fisheries can also be maximized. Considering that the Philippines is an archipelago, it is one of the most sustainable means.
Information dissemination through LGUs
The LGUs can work hand-in-hand with government agencies such as the Department of Health in implementing policies and spreading information on health and nutrition.
LGU officials bridge the national and community levels.
But netizens said citizens should remain vigilant and continue demanding for social services.
The Philippines still has a long way to go. As 2015, the deadline of the attainment of the MDGs, draws nearer, netizens are hoping to see an end to child malnutrition. – Rappler.com