Nutrition in first 1,000 days crucial to child’s developmen­t

- By Claudeth Mocon Ciriaco

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.

Chronic malnutriti­on

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.

Nutrition month

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.

Responsive policy

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.

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