LEGAZPI CITY: An increasing incidence of malnutrition among schoolchildren is stalking the provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur and Catanduanes, all current growth areas of the region, according to the data of the National Nutrition Council (NNC) in Bicol.
In Albay alone, the towns of Santo Domingo under Mayor Herbie Aguas and Manito led by Mayor Caesar Daep, are among the top ten municipalities in Bicol with high cases of malnutrition, the study said.
In Catanduanes, the study counts the municipalities of Viga, Pandan and Caramoran and in Camarines Sur, the towns Lagonoy, Presentacion, Siruma, Cabusao and Cala-banga made it to the list.
The prevalence of underweight, stunting, wasting among school- aged children continue to be serious nutritional concerns of the region based on the 2012 region-wide Operation Timbang result conducted by the NNC regional office here.
The province of Catanduanes had the highest number of underweight and severely underweight preschool children among the six provinces of the region with 5,906 a prevalence rate of 18.91 percent out of 31,240 preschool children totally weighed followed by Camarines Sur with 38, 877 or 18.16 percent out of 214,074 weighed, Masbate, 18, 625 or 16.43 percent out of 119,914 weighed, Albay, 17,513 or 14.91 percent out of 117,443 weighed, Sorsogon, 11,415 or 14.52 percent out of 78,650 weighed while Camarines Norte has the lowest number of malnourished children with 10,470 or 13.58 percent out of 77,121 totally weighed.
Of the region’s seven cities, Naga had the lowest percentage of malnutrition or underweight preschool children with 1,316, or 4.83 percent out of 27,265 totally weighed, followed by Iriga City with 947, or 6.19 percent and Tabaco City with 1,336, or 7.37 percent.
Masbate City ranked first with highest prevalence of malnourished preschool children with 2,238, or 15.03 percent followed by Ligao City (Albay) with 1,817, or 13.19 percent out of 13,777 preschool children totally weighed, Sorsogon City 1,901, or 8.65 percent and Legazpi City improved its malnutrition standing from ranked first in the past few years to ranked fourth with 1,951, or 7.67 percent out of 25,443 totally weighed preschool children.
Using the World Health Organization’s weight standards, the prevalence of malnutrition for children below five declined from 16 percent in 2010 to 14.9 percent in 2012 but the prevalence of poor nutrition hounding the region will hamper the government’s target of reducing malnutrition before 2015.
The Philippine government is one among 189 UN member nations that reaffirmed their commitment to the millennium development goals, including the eradication of malnutrition, extreme poverty and hunger in 2015.
Despite this commitment, the local government units in Bicol failed to fully address the malnutrition problems in the region.
NNC Regional Director Arlene Reario said poor nutritional status continues to be a serious concern particularly underweight, stunting, wasting.
The problem of malnutrition among school children is directly linked with the high incidence of poverty in the region.
Reario explained that under nutrition in the early years of life results to poor resistance to infections, frequent illness and worst death.
While undernourished preschool children tend to be poor learners in school. Poor learning in school results to adults who are unskilled and have low functional literacy, which limit their opportunities for gainful employment.
Unemployment and underemployment then result to low productivity that breeds poverty which in turn repeats the cycle of undernutrition.
“Since individuals make up a community and a country, then malnourished individuals also compromise the potentials for socio economic development of a country,” the NNC official said.
Children afflicted with malnutrition are physically stunted and with poor mental development, high risk to infections, lower school performance, lower levels of productivity and in extreme cases, death.
The region, in collaboration with NNC, is rapidly pushing breastfeeding and supplemental feeding programs to lessen the malnutrition cases in the region.