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Short Pinoys? Blame poor nutrition

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - With 3.6 million children considered to be short, the Philippines ranks ninth in the top 14 countries that have “stunted children,” a report by a non-government organization showed yesterday.

The report by Save the Children, titled “Sizing up: The Stunting and Child Malnutrition Problem in the Philippines,” said 80 percent of the world’s stunted children live in developing or poor countries.

Topping the list is India (61.7 million) followed by Nigeria (11.04 million), Pakistan (9.6 million), China (8.05 million), Indonesia (7.5 million), Bangladesh (5.9 million), Ethiopia (5.2 million), Democratic Republic of Congo (5.2 million), Philippines (3.6 million), United Republic of Tanzania (3.4 million), Egypt (2.6 million), Kenya (2.6 million), Uganda (2.2 million) and Sudan (1.7 million).

The report said one in three Filipino children suffer from stunted growth, an indicator of chronic malnutrition.

Despite progress in reducing child deaths in the Philippines, the “slow and unequal progress in curbing child malnutrition and stunting rates is likely to undermine efforts to reduce poverty and stall economic growth,” it said.

“Moderate or severe wasting in the Philippines was estimated at eight percent in 2013. This translates to about 769,000 children suffering from either moderate or severe wasting,” the report showed.

The report cited the National Nutrition Survey in 2013, which indicated that in the last 20 years, stunting rates have gone down by only nine percent from 39 percent in 2013. Children from poorer households in both rural and urban setting and those living in conflict areas and disaster-prone areas face greater risk of malnutrition, particularly stunting.

Save the Children’s Health and Nutrition adviser Amado Parawan said the “assumption has always been that Filipinos are genetically short, but what we actually see now are generations of stunted and malnourished children.”

“Because ‘shortness’ is considered a racial trait, it is not seen as a serious concern. Stunting is more than just being short, it impacts (on the) children’s future because it hinders physical and mental growth,” Parawan said.

Ned Olney, Save the Children country director, noted that malnutrition is “undermining children’s development, economic growth and people’s capacity to get their way out of poverty.”

He added, “By tackling child malnutrition, alongside poverty and food security, we are helping save and tap the full potential of millions of Filipino children.”

The group explained that the first 1,000 days from birth are crucial to mental and physical development.

“Children who were not able to achieve optimum growth within the first 1,000 days from birth are at higher risk of impaired cognitive development which have adverse effects on their school performance, labor force participation and productivity in later life,” the report said.

ACIRC AMADO PARAWAN CHILDREN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO HEALTH AND NUTRITION MILLION NATIONAL NUTRITION SURVEY NED OLNEY SAVE THE CHILDREN STUNTING AND CHILD MALNUTRITION PROBLEM UNITED REPUBLIC OF TANZANIA
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