Government doing everything to address hunger

Christina Mendez - The Philippine Star
Government doing everything to address hunger
The Duterte administration has been doubling efforts to address hunger incidence in the country, Nograles added, which has been aggravated by the rate of unemployment in the country due to the COVID-19.
The STAR / Michael Varcas, File

MANILA, Philippines — To complement the opening of classes, Malacañang announced yesterday that the beneficiaries of food-for-school program will continue to be provided with food packs to ensure that school children get nutritious food amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said millions of children going back to school would continue to get food-for-school packs, which will be distributed house-to-house.

The Department of Education (DepEd), in partnership with the local social welfare and development and nutrition welfare officers in various areas nationwide, is spearheading the program.

“We also have milk feeding program, nutribun is included. We also have high fortified rice and highly nutritious products,” Nograles said.

With the start of classes this week, Nograles said pupils from Kinder to Grade 6 will benefit from the DepEd’s supplemental feeding program. The target population will still be the stunted, wasted and severely wasted children from Kinder to Grade 6, he said.

The Duterte administration has been doubling efforts to address hunger incidence in the country, Nograles added, which has been aggravated by the rate of unemployment in the country due to the COVID-19.

Nograles, also chair of the Task Force Zero Hunger, expressed confidence that somehow the hunger incidence will be reduced while the government continues its efforts in the fight against hunger and malnutrition.

Nograles underscored the need to work on addressing the needs of all sectors of society amid the pandemic.

“We have a feeding program that will take care of that segment of children. These are those who obviously cannot work,” he said.

Hunger among the youth

While the government’s National Action Plan shifts more to reopening the economy, Nograles said the administration has not abandoned its obligations to ensure that hunger incidence is reduced nationwide.

“We still have vulnerable sectors which are the youth,” he said, “which is why priority is also given to the nutrition of the school children.”

At a virtual press briefing in Malacañang yesterday, Education Sec. Leonor Briones said that local government units are helping distribute the food packs for undernourished students in their respective areas.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will handle the supervised neighborhood play for children aged two to four-and-a-half years.

“For both supervised neighborhood plays and childhood development centers or the DSWD daycare centers, they also have a supplemental feeding program,” the Palace official said.

Since children are not allowed to go out and play due to the pandemic, Nograles said the DWSD’s child development workers and barangay volunteers would handle the distribution house-to-house down to the barangay levels.

For the first 1,000 days of life, Nograles said the government kicked off the program for babies aged six months to 24 months and the nutritionally-at-risk pregnant mothers.

Newborn babies are expected to receive nutrition up to six months, through breast-feeding from their mothers.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has approved the program, which will be supervised by the National Nutrition Council.

“We cannot afford a stunted future, we must feed the future. We must save the children from malnutrition and by saving a generation, we will save our country,” Nograles said.

More jobs

As this developed, Nograles said the government has started to gradually re-open the economy, hoping it will result in more jobs for workers to return to work, and those who were displaced by the pandemic.

Nograles said results of a survey by the Social Weather Stations in September showing a 39.5 percent drop in adult joblessness compared to July reflects the strong possibility that many have regained employment due to the re-opening of the economy.

“You’ll see that there is a drop and I think that is because we have eased up on our quarantine from July to September. So we have many fellow countrymen who are able to look for jobs,” Nograles said.

“More people are able to find jobs now because the joblessness (rate) went down,” he said.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. contradicted the SWS joblessness survey since the government and the private survey firm have different strategies in defining joblessness.

Roque cited statistics that from 17.7 percent of joblessness in April, the numbers lowered to about 10 percent recently.

Scale up efforts

The government must scale up efforts to ensure that no baby and mother would grapple with hunger amid the health crisis, Sen. Grace Poe said yesterday.

“Sustained initiatives on nutrition have become more compelling to deny this COVID-19 pandemic a legacy of hunger and malnutrition in babies and mothers,” Poe said as she pressed for continued funding of Republic Act 11148 or the Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Mag-Nanay Act, which she authored.

The law mandates adequate funding support in addressing malnutrition among pregnant mothers and their newborn in the first 1,000 days. – Paolo Romero

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