Investing in the nutrition of Filipino children is urgently needed as more studies reveal that Filipino children remain vulnerable to malnutrition and hunger despite the country's economic progress. As such, advocates for food and nutrition security are calling on election candidates to prioritize food and nutrition.
“We are guilty of many errors and many faults, but our worst crime is abandoning the children, neglecting the fountain of life. Many of the things we need can wait. The child cannot.
Right now is the time his bones are being formed, his blood is being made, and his senses are being developed. To him we cannot answer ‘Tomorrow,’ his name is today.” ― Gabriela Mist
Filipino farmers, along with advocates for food and nutrition security, called on candidates in the upcoming elections to prioritize food security and child nutrition, and to present more specific plans to address the issue.
“Give us concrete policies, not just motherhood statements. We are talking about food security—food on the table,” said Romeo Dongeto, Executive Director of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), in a recent press conference.
A recent Social Weather Stations survey showed that the 2015 average hunger rate at 13.4 % was lowest since 2004.
However, Dongato said, the World Food Program Survey on Food and Nutrition Security revealed that 67% of Filipinos in the provinces surveyed from August to September 2015 said they augment their daily food requirement through credit extended by the nearest sari-sari stores in their areas, and that their usual meal consists of bread or instant noodles. The study also revealed that one-fourth of those surveyed said they experienced hunger every month.
In 2015, the SWS noted that 36% of families in the country still feel hungry. The 8th National Nutrition Survey also showed that one out of ten Filipinos suffer from chronic energy deficiency, and 19.9% of children were underweight.
“Invest in our children. How will economic growth be sustained if our children are stunted and malnourished?” Dongeto asked.
Dyan Rodriguez, Vice Lead Convener of the Philippine Coalition of Advocates for Nutrition Security (PhilCAN), also stressed the urgency of investing in the health of Filipino children. According to her, 4 in 10 children living in poor countries suffer from malnourishment; malnourished children are 20% less able to read; and malnourished children earn less. The Philippines also has the highest rate of stunting worldwide.
“The effects of malnutrition are irreversible,” she said, as she showed members of the press a brain scan of a 9 year-old where gaps in the brain caused by poor nutrition could be seen clearly.
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