Nutrition in first 1,000 days crucial to child’s development
IN the Philippines, under-nutrition remains to be a serious problem especially now that the country is facing the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic has aggravated hunger and food insecurities brought about by community quarantines. These quarantines in turn disrupted employment and livelihoods, health and nutrition service delivery and food supply chains.
The damage to the health, physical growth and brain development of children affected by chronic under-nutrition—stunting in the first two years—is often irreversible, impairing children for life and leaving them with lower chances of finishing school and becoming highly-productive adults.
Stunting, iron and iodine deficiencies impact learning abilities and intelligence of children. Studies show that populations affected by iodine deficiency have 10 to 15 IQ points less than those not affected.
ACCORDING to a recent study by the Food and Nutrition research Institute (FNRI), the current chronic malnutrition rate among Filipino children aged zero to two is at 26.2 percent, the highest in 10 years.
The Philippines suffers from the triple burden of nutrition—undernutrition, hidden hunger or the lack of essential nutrients, and overweight.
A third of Filipino children are stunted (low weight for age), placing the Philippines among the 10 countries with the highest number of stunted children worldwide.
“Hidden hunger” conditions such as iron and iodine deficiency still affect babies and pregnant mothers.
Meanwhile, childhood obesity is increasing, with nearly one in ten children aged 11 to 19 years currently suffering from overweight or obesity. The rise in the number of overweight and obese children is driven by the marketing of highly processed products in the country.
THE National Nutrition Council, Unicef (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) just concluded the commemoration of the 47th Nutrition Month in the Philippines.
The theme “Malnutrisyon patuloy na labanan, First 1000 days tutukan!” highlights the significance of the first 1,000 days of a baby’s life, a golden window of opportunity for setting the foundations of optimum health, growth, and neurodevelopment with benefits that extend into adulthood.
Nutrition Month called for collaboration across different stakeholders in support of these challenges and the implementation of the first 1,000 days of life strategy and the Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition (PPAN).
“The Nutrition Month theme reaffirms the call for continued multisectoral efforts to address malnutrition using the Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition as the national framework,” Assistant Secretary and Executive Director Dr. Azucena M. Dayanghirang of the National Nutrition Council said.
Dr. Dayanghirang said that the theme emphasizes the need to scale up interventions in the first 1,000 days through the strengthened implementation of republic Act 11148 or the Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Mag-nanay Act, especially in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.
As a donor partner, Korea through KOICA has been actively supporting the Philippines’ efforts to improve nutrition for young children and infants.
THIS work focuses on enabling a responsive policy and governance environment, delivering quality and comprehensive nutrition and health services to women, newborns and children, and improved caring practices of pregnant women, mothers and caregivers on maternal and child nutrition and health.
“The Korean government has been providing various forms of assistance throughout the Philippines, including in Mindanao, where one of the priority areas of assistance is scaling up critical actions in the first 1,000 days of life. We hope these efforts will alleviate malnutrition and help build better lives for children,” said Korean Ambassador to the Philippines Inchul Kim.
Unicef in the Philippines has been working at different levels of government to address the technical, financial and capacity gaps that drive inequity, social exclusion and bottlenecks in the health system. The UN child rights agency uses evidence-informed advocacy to rally partners and engage communities on the ground.
“As we close this year’s Nutrition Month celebration, I urge all stakeholders and actors to reimagine what nutrition means for children at the time of Covid-19. For the Philippines to achieve the goal of optimum growth and development of every Filipino child, all sectors, including health, agriculture and food systems, WASH [water, sanitation and hygiene], and social protection need to come together to implement high-impact nutrition interventions for every child,” Unicef Philippines representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov said.