Candidates urged: Address hunger, malnutrition

Mayen Jaymalin - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Child advocates yesterday urged candidates to push for a more comprehensive and efficient program to resolve the prevalence of widespread hunger and malnutrition in the country.

Amado Parawan, Save the Children’s health and nutrition advisor, said more than just a feeding program is required to significantly reduce the high incidence of malnutrition among Filipino children.

“Feeding programs can only address hunger. But that is a mere band-aid, short-term solution. It does not address the malnutrition problem,” Parawan said.

“These candidates may need to re-evaluate their plans to solve child malnutrition by consulting experts regarding the globally accepted interventions versus malnutrition,” he said.

Based on a survey conducted by the Food Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) in 2015, the prevalence of stunting among children under five years rose to 33.4 percent while wasting is pegged at 21.5 percent and underweight at 7.1 percent.

According to Save the Children International country representative Ned Olney, the Philippines posted the “worst increase” in malnutrition rate with one in two Filipino children considered stunted or short for their age.

He warned that the incidence of stunting and malnutrition would continue and further grow this year due to the prevailing El Niño.

Meanwhile, FNRI chief science research specialist Cecilia Acuin said the country’s next leader should expand the focus of the conditional cash transfer and come out with other programs to address malnutrition.

Acuin said future leaders should tackle the issue of child hunger and malnutrition.

Parawan said the possibility of unhealthy food being provided to children is just one of the issues hampering the impact of a feeding program.

Parawan added that the next leaders should consider the “First 1000 Days” program wherein high impact nutrition interventions are being advised to pregnant mothers and their newborns from the time of conception to the first two years of the child’s life.

Interventions include the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding, complementary feeding, Vitamin A and iron supplementation, treatment of acute malnutrition, and maternal nutrition.

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