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Gov’t to raise ‘healthy citizens,’ to deal with malnutrition among kids

One in three Filipino children under the age of 5 is stunted, the Department of Health said Wednesday—a situation that a P10 billion World Bank-funded program seeks to address.
‘LAST MILE’ NUTRITION PROGRAM. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. affixes his signature on a manifesto of commitment for the Philippine Multisectoral Nutrition Project during its launching on Wednesday, March 29, 2023. The PMNP, a four-year project spearheaded by the Department of Health and the Department of Social Welfare and Development, is geared toward adopting a bold and multisectoral approach to achieve nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions across various local government units. Alfred Frias 

“Twenty-nine point five percent of Filipino children under 5 are stunted,” DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said during the launch of the Philippine Multi-sectoral Nutrition Project (PMNP). “Our issues with nutrition go beyond access to food. These are affected by interplay of various factors such as health education, livelihood, social welfare, and governance.”

“We are also aware of the inter-generational effect of malnutrition,” she added.

Communities without proper access to food, education, and livelihood cannot house “healthy citizens,” Vergeire said.

“Parents who do not receive enough nutrients will also not be able to provide enough food for their children. Youth is the hope of our nation;, that’s what we always say but our youth today are stunted and underweight. These young people will eventually run our economy,” she said.

The DOH OIC said an estimated 5 percent of the global gross domestic product was lost due to reduced productivity and direct health care costs related to malnutrition in 2014.

“The United Nations World Food Program estimates that the Philippine economy alone faces about $4.5 billion in losses. Without collaborative action, the future of the Philippines remains stunted,” she added.

Vergeire earlier said at least 21.6 percent of children aged zero to 23 months old nationwide are stunted, while around 12.3 percent of children are underweight.

She said the launch of the PMNP offers a “new beginning for innovations” to be integrated with established strategies.

She said the project is a collective effort of government agencies to shape programs and cater to the needs of the Filipino mothers and children.

“From previous feeding programs and nutrient provisions services, we are now expanding our approach to cover disparities in other sectors affecting nutrition. With the further fortification of our plans we can ensure the sustainability of our systems and community investments for this three-year project life cycle of the PMNP,” she added.

Vergeire said the project, which has an estimated cost of P10 billion, will be funded by a World Bank loan.

The World Bank saw that stunting in children was reduced by as much as 8 percent three years after it carried out similar programs in other countries, Vergeire said.

“Local government units can only access the grants if they reach the targets they will be setting,” she said, adding that the program will be available to 235 local government units across the country.

The project will assess the quality and quantity of food distributed to indigent children, and monitor the local government’s push to maintain clean water sources, proper sanitation and housing conditions, among other factors that contribute to stunting and malnutrition.

Of the P10 billion loan, 70 percent will go to the Department of Health while 30 percent will be coursed through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Vergeire said.

Social Welfare Secretary Rex Gatchalian said the initiative was “the most aggressive program to combat malnutrition and stunting in poorer municipalities” in the Philippines.

“This is not just a feeding program,” he said in a mix of Filipino and English. “It also includes the delivery of services to aid nutrition.”

“It’s community-driven so they can tailor-fit their desired interventions depending on the situation in their area,” he added.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. pointed out the importance of LGU participation in carrying out the project because without the partnership with local governments, “we do not get to what is often referred to as the last mile.”

To address malnutrition in the country, the President called on the DOH to collaborate with other concerned government agencies in harmonizing and effecting sound diet and nutritional policies and practices for the people.

Credit belongs to : www.manilastandard.net

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