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Marks & Spencer

November 2012 -- Marks & Spencer will donate up to Php 1,000,000 from its in-store Christmas campaign to help children suffering from severe acute malnutrition in Mindanao.

According to the latest statistics from the Food and Nutrition Research Institute, the prevalence of underweight children below five years old is at 20.2 per cent while 7.3 per cent of children below five have acute malnutrition.  The situation in three regions (Cagayan Valley, MIMAROPA and ARMM) is even worse with severe malnutrition rates of 10-14 per cent. Malnutrition is caused by a number of factors related to health care, feeding practices, and poor water and sanitation facilities.
UNICEF is working with government and partners to combat severe acute malnutrition through a Community based management for Severe Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) programme which has been running in Central Mindanao since December 2009. It was started in response to a nutritional assessment carried out in the area that showed 10% of children under 5 were suffering from acute malnutrition. CMAM was also the approach used in the emergency response to Tropical Storm Sendong in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan last 2011.  

“Without any intervention, a child suffering from severe acute malnutrition has at least a 30% chance of dying. With this programme, which is based on UNICEF’s global experience with CMAM, and through the government, we are recording up to a 90% survival rate,’ said Dr. Paul Zambrano, UNICEF’s Nutrition Officer. 

The programme involves community screening of children for acute malnutrition and a “therapeutic feeding” programme that is administered by community health workers and volunteers in health centres and hospitals. Mothers bring their children each week, on a specific day to be weighed and measured. Those children detected with severe acute malnutrition undergo an appetite test of a  special peanut based RUTF (Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food) to eat whilst in the clinic. As long as the child has appetite and is able to eat more than 70% of the RUTF, the mother is given enough RUTF packs for a week, and strict instructions on how to administer it. Any child that cannot eat or has other complications is treated in the hospital temporarily until he or she is able to resume the programme in health centres closer to their homes.

Mothers are also counselled on breastfeeding, adequate, safe and nutritious complementary foods as well as other best childcare practices including hand washing before preparing and feeding a child and after visiting the toilet.  It is estimated that globally, undernutrition is an underlying condition in more than a third of deaths of children under five years. Severely malnourished children have a high likelihood of dying if they don’t receive appropriate treatment. The long term effects of malnutrition are impaired learning and development and reduced income earning potential as adults. It is even estimated that up to 3% of a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) is lost due to undernutrition.

UNICEF continues to support the CMAM program in municipalities like Maguindanao and North Cotabato with plans to include the program into regular local government services in its partner municipalities (four in North Cotabato, one in Lanao Sur, and two in Maguindanao). UNICEF is also working with the DOH to finalize the national guidelines for CMAM which will make this life-saving programme available to all severely malnourished children in the country.

Dr. Zambrano adds, “This generous donation from Marks & Spencer will go towards expanding the CMAM program to reach more children and families with high prevalence of malnutrition especially in Mindanao. We have achieved a lot, but there is still much to be done. With the support of businesses and individuals, we will continue to give more children in need the chance to live and grow normally, study, play, laugh, and experience the joys of childhood.”

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