How a community curbs malnutrition

Monalinda Cadiz
How a community curbs malnutrition
World Vision's Pinoy Nutrition Hub is ending malnutrition one child at a time in several barangays in the Philippines

MISAMIS ORIENTAL, Philippines – The youngest of 6 children, two-year-old Daniel Noynay was found underweight for his age a few months back. Daniel’s 3 other siblings were also malnourished when they were his age. 

“I think it’s my fault that my children were underweight because I was also malnourished when I breastfed them,” Daniel’s 30-year-old mother Juvilyn lamented, unaware her nutritional state lessened the nutrients of her breastmilk.

Juvilyn admitted her family barely had enough to eat, which is why half of her children had to undergo rehabilitation from malnutrition as toddlers.

The youngest, Daniel, was rehabilitated through the Pinoy Nutrition Hub (PNH). Out of all the nutrition programmes she enrolled her children in, Juvilyn preferred this program as it gave her more information than just treating her child.

“I learned to cook food that is easy to prepare, nutritious simple meals with ingredients I can easily find nearby,” she said.  

Rehabilitating malnourished children

Daniel started at 7.6 kilograms. Based on child growth standards, he was below the normal weight for boys his age. This prompted Barangay Nutrition Scholars (BNS) to encourage his parents to enrol him in the first PNH implementation in his village.  

Fortunately just after the 12 daily sessions, the boy’s weight increased to 8.4 kilograms. By the 24th day, he finally achieved the normal weight of 8.8 kilograms.

Introduced by World Vision, the hub is intended to rehabilitate malnourished children under 5 years old in 25 barangays across the country. Each hub can accomodate 10 children per 12-day session.

It also aims to sustain nutritional improvement through transformed behavior of parents or guardians. At the hub, caregivers learn more than proper feeding. They are also taught caring practices that contribute to the overall welfare of the malnourished child.

“Before I attended the hub, I did not clean Daniel daily but after I learned that cleanliness is important to his health, I washed him everyday so he wouldn’t catch sickness,” Juvilyn confessed. 

Sustaining rehabilitation gains

Pinoy Nutrition Hub’s most important trait is its sustainability. This ensures malnutrition will not occur again in a household and, eventually, in the whole community.

The nutrition hub also considers the existing practices of families that have healthy children in the village. Through the concept called positive deviance, community members learn from each other to ensure healthy children.

SUSTAINABILITY. Pinoy Nutrition Hub parents plan to develop hanging gardens using upturned plastic bottles to plant vegetables.

The commitment of government officials is also important to sustain the improvement. 

The local government works with World Vision for PNH in 5 barangays for the rehabilitation of malnourished children. These areas were determined through Operation Timbang Puls (OTP plus), an annual measurement of weight and height of children aged 0 to 71 months old. 

In the hub done in Villanueva town between July and November 2014, 48 of the 64 malnourished children were rehabilitated. Immediately impressed with the initial result, the municipal nutritionist shared her town is expanding the program in two barangays in 2015. 

The vital role of local governance in nutrition

The program also has its complications, Villanueva Municipal Nutritionist Irma Mar noted.  

“It would have been easy to be discouraged and just give up on these children if you will observe the family’s dire poverty as there is no land to plant needed food, parents are jobless,” she said. 

But the community were able to find ways to implement a very promising program through the hardwork of persistent BNS and local officials. 

A former cemetery – now vacant – was turned into a communal vegetable garden. Meanwhile, several families are also looking into developing hanging gardens using recycled plastic bottles. 

“We just harvested the first batch of string beans and pechay and we’ve saved up the money,” one BNS proudly shared. “When the next PNH class begins, we will be serving children the vegetables from this very garden.”

“Amidst many challenges because of poverty, I am thankful for PNH because it helped improve the behavior of caregivers and this lowered malnutrition count,” Mara said. – 

Monalinda Cadiz is an advocate of children’s health. She is a development worker and communicator for the Child Health Now Campaign, World Vision’s first global campaign on a single issue: decrease child deaths from preventable causes.

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