Healthier, affordable diets for children key to national development
Joint Press Release
MANILA, 6 July 2023 – During the commemoration of this year’s National Nutrition Month, the Department of Health (DOH), National Nutrition Council (NNC) and UNICEF Philippines called for healthier and more affordable diets for children and their families.
In the Philippines, around a third of households cannot afford healthy food for their children. The 2021 Expanded National Nutrition Survey (ENNS) showed that 33.4% and 2% of Filipino households are moderately and severely food insecure, respectively. When someone is moderately food insecure, they don’t have enough money for a healthy balanced diet, while someone who is severely food insecure has gone a day or more without food. Apart from not being able to afford healthy food, unregulated and excessive marketing to both adults and children push them to choose cheaper, easier to cook yet unhealthy food.
The ENNS also reported that only 13.8% of children 6–23 months received the minimum acceptable diet for their optimal growth and development. As food prices continue to rise and economic challenges persist, making healthy diets affordable is critical to tackling malnutrition that is affecting 26.7% or 3.2 million) Filipino children. This is especially grave in regions like the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), where 39.1% children are stunted.
“When people can afford nutritious food and healthy diets, they are more likely to stay healthy, which improves productivity, educational outcomes, and overall socio-economic well-being. Adequate nutrition is crucial during critical periods like early childhood when proper nourishment supports optimal physical and cognitive development,” said Assistant Secretary Dr. Azucena Dayanghirang, Executive Director of NNC.
The 49th Nutrition Month carries the theme "Healthy Diet Gawing Affordable for All” to improve access to affordable, nutritious diets for families, especially children. The Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition 2023-2028, which will be launched during Nutrition Month, enhances its food security component by promoting consumer demand for healthy diets and strengthening delivery of interventions to improve access to adequate, age appropriate, nutrient-dense diverse, safe and sustainable diets.
UNICEF has been helping to solve the triple burden of malnutrition in the Philippines by undertaking research on children’s nutrition, strengthening nutrition interventions in communities and during emergencies, and developing policies, standards, and services that improve the availability and affordability of nutritious foods in schools and communities. UNICEF advocates for healthy food environments that can provide children with adequate diets, space to play and exercise, access to safe water, sanitation, and financial security.
“Every child has a right to adequate nutrition. Good nutrition is the bedrock of child survival, growth, and development. Children are better able to learn, play and participate in their communities and can better overcome illness and crisis if they are well nourished,” Malalay Ahmadzai, UNICEF Philippines Chief of Health and Nutrition said.
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.