Longer maternal, child care program sought

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TO fight malnutrition, a lawmaker at the House of Representatives has filed a bill that seeks to establish a 1,000-day maternal and childcare program.

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House Bill 1340 or the First 1,000 Days Act, Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte wants mothers and their children to be given nutritional counseling; immunization and vitamin supplementation for the mother; intensified community-based food production projects to ensure the adequate supply of nutritious food; exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and complementary feeding.

The program also envisions psychosocial services for pregnant and lactating mothers; complete immunization services for children; treating malnourished children with special and therapeutic food; and general family counseling, including child and family development.

Villafuerte’s measure is the House counterpart of the bill filed by Sen. Grace Poe at the Senate.

“The first 1,000 days of a child’s life is most critical for growth and development. Consequently, hunger and poor nutrition during this period can have irreversible consequences,” Villafuerte, a former Camarines Sur governor, said.

“Malnutrition is also responsible for almost half of all deaths of children under age five, but virtually all of these deaths are preventable,” he added.

The measure tasks the Department of Health and its National Nutrition Council to develop the barangay-based maternal and child care program in coordination with the Departments of the Interior and Local Government and of Social Welfare and Development, and the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology.

“Although the Philippines has made significant strides in implementing programs and enacting laws to protect women and children, it still fell short in reducing the incidence of maternal casualty and death in childbirth,” Villafuerte pointed out.

He cited data from the National Nutrition Survey that showed that the overall malnutrition or stunting rate for Filipino children aged zero to two was at its worst in the last 10 years at 26.2 percent in 2015.

Llanesca T. Panti

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