Children's rights

Only 13.8% of Filipino babies, toddlers get adequate diet needed for development

Herbie Gomez

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

Only 13.8% of Filipino babies, toddlers get adequate diet needed for development
The National Nutrition Council worries about the Bangsamoro region, where 39.1% of young children suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – The National Nutrition Council (NNC) said that only 13.8% of Filipino children aged six to 23 months are receiving a diet that meets the minimum requirements for optimal growth and development. 

This stage of early childhood, typically spanning from one to three years old, is marked by rapid growth, exploration, and developmental milestones. Toddlers exhibit increased mobility as they learn to walk and explore their surroundings. During this phase, they also develop their language skills, engage in social interactions, and start to assert their independence. 

The NNC said the disturbing statistic shows the need to tackle malnutrition with urgency. It said 26.7% or about 3.2 million Filipino children suffer from malnutrition, aggravated by the rising food prices and economic challenges.

Must Read

Nutrition council sounds alarm over skyrocketing healthy diet costs

Nutrition council sounds alarm over skyrocketing healthy diet costs

The council expressed particular concern about the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), where 39.1% of young children suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition. 

The NNC described the malnutrition problem in the Muslim-majority region in Mindanao as “grave.”

Data from the World Food Programme (WFP) showed that about half of the Bangsamoro region’s population grapples with chronic malnutrition, and the region registered the highest prevalence of stunting in the country, affecting 45% of children under the age of five. 

It said the COVID-19 pandemic worsened the problem, as it resulted in a decline in incomes for more than 75% of the population in BARMM, worsening the malnutrition problem in the region.

Throughout the country, about a third of households cannot afford to provide their children with healthy food. The 2021 Expanded National Nutrition Survey (ENNS) showed that 33.4% of Filipino households experience moderate food insecurity, while 2% face severe food insecurity. 

The NNC defines moderate food insecurity as referring to people poor enough to afford a balanced and healthy diet, while severe food insecurity indicates that people have gone a day or more without food.

Cheap but unhealthy

The council said unregulated and excessive marketing, which encourages the consumption of cheaper, easier-to-prepare yet unhealthy food options, is exacerbating the malnutrition problem.

NNC executive director Azucena Dayanghirang stressed the importance of affordable and nutritious diets for children, saying that they contribute to better health, productivity, educational outcomes, and overall socio-economic well-being. 

“Adequate nutrition is crucial during critical periods like early childhood when proper nourishment supports optimal physical and cognitive development,” said Dayanghirang in a July 6 statement released by the NNC.

At the start of the 49th National Nutrition Month celebration, the NNC, the Department of Health (DOH), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) called for healthier and more affordable diets for children and their families. 

Malalay Ahmadzai, the UNICEF-Philippines health and nutrition chief, said adequate nutrition is the “bedrock of child survival, growth, and development.”

Ahmadzai said, “Children are better able to learn, play and participate in their communities and can better overcome illness and crisis if they are well nourished.”

To help address the problem of malnutrition, UNICEF has been conducting research on children’s nutrition, strengthening nutrition interventions in communities and emergencies, and developing policies, standards, and services to improve the availability and affordability of nutritious foods in schools and communities. 

Challenge posed by inflation

The NNC said the upcoming Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition 2023-2028 aims to enhance the food security component by promoting consumer demand for healthy diets and strengthening interventions to improve access to age-appropriate, nutrient-dense, diverse, safe, and sustainable diets.

This year’s Nutrition Month celebration carries the theme “Healthy Diet Gawing Affordable for All,” with the goal of improving access to affordable and nutritious diets, particularly for families and children. However, the NNC faces the challenge of escalating inflation in the country.

According to research group IBON, the Philippines currently has the highest inflation rate among Southeast Asian countries, which affects the purchasing power of Filipinos. The country has consistently experienced high inflation since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020.

IBON called on the government to take more proactive measures to address the problem and improve the incomes and earnings of Filipinos. 

The group cited data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), which showed that inflation in June 2023 decreased to 5.4% from 6.1% in May 2023 and June 2022. However, it noted that it was still the highest inflation rate in Southeast Asia based on the latest available data.

The Philippines was followed by Singapore with a rate of 5.1%, then Thailand at 3.9%, Indonesia at 3.5%, Malaysia at 2.8%, Vietnam at 2%, and Brunei at 0.2%. There is no 2023 inflation data available for Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar.

Although inflation eased in June due to slower price increases in various sectors such as food, transport, housing, and utilities, IBON pointed out that the prices of basic goods like rice, vegetables, fish, and meat were still increasing.

Compared to the PSA price monitoring data for June 2022 and June 2023, the group said the cost of well-milled rice remained high at an average of P43 per kilogram. The prices of vegetables such as native cabbage increased from an average of P75/kg to P94/kg, potatoes from P77/kg to P10/kg, onions from P93/kg to P171/kg, and fish like tilapia from P130/kg to P141/kg.

The minimum wages nationwide are currently below the poverty threshold. As of June 2023, the monthly minimum wage across all regions averaged P8,902, which is far below the monthly average poverty threshold of P12,030 and significantly lower than the monthly family living wage of P23,260 for June 2023, according to IBON.

During the first year of the Marcos Jr. administration, minimum wage earners in the National Capital Region (NCR) experienced a decline in their daily take-home pay by P27, according to IBON. This decline was a consequence of persistent inflation since June 2022, which eroded the purchasing power of their wages. 

The real wage, measured at 2018 prices, has declined from P508 in June 2022 to a meager P481 in June 2023. According to IBON, the significant drop in purchasing power highlights the erosion of wages over the past year.

It said that, currently, the NCR nominal minimum wage of P570 falls significantly short of the estimated P1,163 living wage for a family of five as of June 2023. With a wage gap of P593, the NCR minimum wage in June 2023 is less than half or 49% of the family living wage in the region, the group said.

IBON called on the government to implement measures such as removing value-added tax and other excise levies on oil, sourcing cheaper oil, and providing more substantial support to small producers and domestic production. –

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.

Summarize this article with AI

How does this make you feel?

Download the Rappler App!
Accessories, Glasses, Face


Herbie Gomez

Herbie Salvosa Gomez is coordinator of Rappler’s bureau in Mindanao, where he has practiced journalism for over three decades. He writes a column called “Pastilan,” after a familiar expression in Cagayan de Oro, tackling issues in the Southern Philippines.