MANILA, Philippines – Not much has changed in the nutritional status of Filipino children in the past 5 years, the latest National Nutrition Survey (NNS) revealed.
The results of the 8th NNS was released by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST) in time for this year’s national nutrition month.
The number of Filipino children aged 0-5 who are “wasted” – too thin for their height – even increased from 6.9% in 2008 to 7.9% in 2013.
Slight improvements, however, were observed among “stunted” – too short for their age – and underweight children.
|Prevalance of underweight children|
|Prevalance of stunting|
“Bahagya ang pagbaba [ng underweight], ‘di ganun kalakihan. The trend is very small,” Mario Capanzana, FNRI Director, said. (The decrease is only slight, not that big.)
“If we project the results to our MDG target, theoretically, if we really work hard, it’s still difficult to achieve the target. When we look at our programs, we’re doing something, but it’s still not enough to meet the MDGs,” Capanzana added.
Bicol, Eastern Visayas, and the Zamboanga Peninsula had higher prevalence of both stunted and underweight children aged 0-5 than the national average, FNRI reported.
Meanwhile, children aged 5-10 showed better progress. There was a decrease in the prevalence in both stunting and underweight.
Teens, poverty, education
In 2013, stunted Filipinos aged 10-19 decreased from 35.7% in 2011 to 31.5% in 2013.
Prevalence of wasted Filipinos aged 5-19, however, remained virtually unchanged.
|5-19 year olds||10-19 year olds|
As of 2013, majority of undernourished Filipino children belong to the poorest households, while overweight children mostly belong to the wealthiest families, FNRI reported.
Ensuring that all children graduate from elementary is another MDG the Philippines has lower chances of achieving by 2015, according to the National Statistical Coordination Board’s (NSCB) latest data.
The difference in the mean weight and height of the richest and poorest Filipinos is a story in itself.
The survey also compared the mean height and weight of adults in urban and rural areas; and found that the latter have a lower average.
“Underweight cases are the highest in rural areas where there is food insecurity, poor access to health services, water and sanitation, and behavior-changing information,” explained Dr Francisca Cuevas, director for health and nutrition of Save the Children.
Duque argued that many local government units (LGUs) do not allocate adequate budgets for nutrition programs. She also advised LGUs to create regular job positions for municipal nutrition action officers and barangay nutrition scholars.
Another problem is the “widespread practice and perception of feeding programs as a response to undernutrition, which is just, in fact, bandage solution,” she added.
She also blamed the media for “advertising products detrimental to nutrition” such as fast food, instant foods and drinks.
Meanwhile, international non-profit organization SOS Children’s Village criticized the government’s inaction. “We believe that the government’s lack of concrete policies addressing children’s health care is what impedes us in improving their situation,” said Maria Sarah Delos Santos, SOS national programme director.
Ironically, the prevalence of overweight Filipino children aged 0-5 increased from 3.3% in 2008 to 5% in 2013. The number of overweight teenagers also increased.
Eating a lot does not equate to eating right, however. What matters is the kind of nutrition you are getting. (INFOGRAPHIC: Hidden hunger)
Obesity is linked to “a rise in cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes,” the World Health Organization warned.
WHO added that overweight women may experience more pregnancy complications, while those born to overweight mothers may be at higher risk of childhood obesity.
The prevalence of nutritionally-at-risk pregnant Filipinas in 2013 remained high at 24.8%; it barely changed in the past two years. Undernutrition among lactating mothers stood at 12.5%, which slightly increased in two years.
Teenage mothers are more likely to encounter problems, according to FNRI.
“Poor feeding practices and a relatively low prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding also contribute to malnutrition,” Cuevas said.
“Nutrition policies like the Milk Code should be strongly enforced from the national to the local levels, and during disasters and normal situations alike,” Duque added. (READ: Who’s violating the Milk Code?)
Cases of anemia, however, decreased among children and pregnant women. (INFOGRAPHIC: ABCs of nutrition and pregnancy)
“If we look at the aggregation of the age, the underweight problem already begins when the child turns one year old. It’s better to focus on programs for children aged 0-2,” Capanzana suggested.
This includes programs for pregnant women too.
This period – from pregnancy to birth to a child’s first 1,000 days – is dubbed as a “window for opportunity.” Many parents, unfortunately, do not realize this.
Health promotion and education should also be prioritized, Cuevas suggested. Various NGOs like SOS agree that “local communities should be empowered and capacitated to be able to provide long-term and effective solutions to malnutrition.” (READ: Community-level approach)
Addressing the public’s lack of awareness can be an excellent first step in the country’s long battle against hunger. – Rappler.com
How can we help fight hunger, its causes, and effects? Report what your LGU is doing, recommend NGOs, or share creative solutions. Send your stories and ideas to email@example.com. Be part of the #HungerProject.