2017 Nutrition Month
On the occasion of the 2017 Nutrition Month in the Philippines, launched by the National Nutrition Council for July, we want to focus on one of the problems against which Kito Onlus fights everyday, that is the importance of a proper nutrition. As you know, malnutrition and undernourishment are serious problems in the Philippines, where the situation is exacerbated by the frequent natural disasters that assiduously affect the nation. Phenomena such as earthquakes, typhoons, and hurricanes contribute negatively to food distribution, maintenance of hygiene standards, efficiency and quality of health services and level of education regarding both nutrition and non-nutrition issues. In addition, the most vulnerable parts of the population such as women and children are the most affected ones. For this reason, Kito has over the years been engaged in training activities for children and their families on the principles of proper nutrition, services of children and maternal care and nutrition programs.
A complex issue
Malnutrition and undernourishment are so complex problems that need to be addressed from many perspectives, there is a need for co-operation of expertise in various subjects, from access to food, nutrition education, water, sanitation, hygiene and nutrition to disaster. In this regard, the government should focus on the root causes of chronic malnutrition, such as poverty. For example, a measure to counter them could be to ensure education and employment, preferably within the province of residence, to mothers and future mothers, since the family’s eating habits are affected by parental unemployment and long distances to work or irregular working shifts tend to be associated with suboptimal feeding practices. Given that undernutrition or poor nutrition causes difficulties in various aspects of an individual’s life such as health, psycho-physical well-being, economic productivity, and education, it is a very difficult situation to stop. For example, in the most serious cases of vitamin D deficiency, stunting may occur and, if not addressed, affects the physical and mental development of a child with irreversible consequences when a child reaches the age of two. For instance, children who are stunted in the first two years are also more likely to repeat grades, delay school entry or drop out of school.
The data presented by the Global Hunger Index 2016 developed by the Food Policy Research Institute shows that the Philippines are among the nations with the most severe indexes in the feed with a 19.9 score on a scale from 0 to 100. The proportion of undernourished in population is 13.5 (%). And, for children under the age of five, the situation is even more tragic: the prevalence of stunting is 30.3 (%) and the percentage of wasting is 7.9 (%). Obviously, malnutrition problems increase the risk of contracting diseases and in the most critical cases, 2.8% of children under the age of 5, it causes death due to complications.
According to a study conducted by the Inter-Agency Regional Analyst Network (RAN) and Action Against Hunger (ACF) on the basis of data collected in 2016 in the Philippines there are about 3.4 million starving children and more than 300,000 underweight, all under 5 years. Unfortunately, numbers increase if we talk about Filipino children experiencing from hunger and malnutrition, estimated at about 7 million.
In addition, poor nutrition contributes to the levels of economic productivity in the country. As mentioned earlier, undernourishment has also an economical cost in the country. According to 2016 Save the Children study “Cost of Hunger: Philippines”, the cost of undernourishment in the Philippines amounted to over 320 billion per year, equivalent to almost 3% of GDP.
Finally, quoting the World Bank report, the study said that “a 1% loss in adult height as a result of childhood stunting is linked to a 1.4% loss in economic productivity, making them earn 20% less as adults”.