Addressing stunting and malnutrition should go beyond Nutrition Month celebration
MANILA, 29 July 2020 – UNICEF Philippines lauds the National Nutrition Council (NNC) and the Department of Health (DOH) for a successful run of this year’s Nutrition Month in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. UNICEF calls on the Government, policymakers, and the public to work together towards robust health and nutrition services for children in the Philippines. The themes “Batang Pinoy, Sana Tall… Iwas Stunting, Sama All!” and “Iwas ALL din sa COVID-19” raised awareness improving resilience against COVID-19 while minimizing the long-term effects of malnutrition.
“The 46th Nutrition Month encouraged Filipino families and communities to protect their children’s right to proper nutrition and good health,” UNICEF Philippines Representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov said. “Beyond Nutrition Month, we look forward to continuously working with NNC, DOH, and other partners to address malnutrition for the betterment of our children’s future and the achievement of their full potential.”
Stunting is defined as impaired growth and development experienced due to poor nutrition. Children who are stunted are too short for their age. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), childhood stunting is “one of the most significant impediments to human development, globally affecting approximately 162 million children under the age of 5 years. It is largely an irreversible outcome of inadequate nutrition and repeated bouts of infection during the first 1000 days of a child’s life.” Children who are stunted do less well at school and earn lower wages as adults.
In the Philippines, a third of children are stunted. the Philippines ranks fifth among countries in the East Asia and Pacific Region with the highest stunting prevalence and one of 10 countries with the highest number of stunted children in the world. In the last 15 years, little progress has been made to reduce stunting in the country despite good economic growth and increased health budgets.
The WHO estimates that by 2025, about 127 million children under five years old will be stunted assuming that current trends continue. With the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a possibility that more children will be stunted if there are no mitigating measures put in place.
UNICEF supported Nutrition Month activities, particularly the conduct of the First 1000 Days Webinar Series with NNC, DOH, and Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD). The webinar called on all sectors of society – from National and Local Government, NGOS and CSOs, Development Partners and UN, Academe, to Private Sector and Professional Organizations – to scale up and deliver critical interventions during the First 1000 days of a child's life. After the warm reception of the webinar series in Luzon and Visayas on July 23 and July 27, participants from Mindanao will also able to take part on August 4.
Key legislations enacted by Congress that promote and protect children’s nutrition include Republic Act (RA) 11148 or the Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Mag-Nanay Act RA 10028 of the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act, RA 11210 or the Expanded Maternity Leave Act, and Executive Order 51 or the Philippine Milk Code. Among the other milestones related to the reduction of stunting and malnutrition in the country is the Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition 2017-2022 that provides the framework to address malnutrition, including stunting, and its underlying factors.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children in the Philippines, visit www.unicef.ph.