The Philippine economy is losing at least P328 billion yearly because of the impact of stunted child growth on workforce productivity and education, according to a report from Save the Children Philippines, a nongovernment organization (NGO).
The report, titled “Cost of Hunger: Philippines” said that since 2013, child stunting has cost the Philippines 3 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP).
The overall economic loss of P328 billion was broken down into P166.5 billion in lost income because of lower level of education achieved by the working population who suffered from childhood impediment; P160 billion in lost productivity because of premature deaths among children, who would have been members of the current working-age population; and P1.23 billion in additional education expenses covering grade repetitions linked to lack of nutrition.
“This study proves that undernutrition has a cost to all of us. In just a year, the Philippines has lost almost 3 percent of its GDP in terms of education and productivity loss due to stunting. If we add health costs, the likely impact would be an additional 0.05 percent to 1.6 percent,” said Ned Olney, country director of Save the Children Philippines.
The report found that the Philippines’ investment in nutrition programs was drastically low, with numbers estimated at 0.52 percent of general government expenditures compared with the global average allocation of 2.1 percent.
The NGO said the need to invest in nutrition programs during a child’s first 1,000 days is considered a critical period of care to avert impediment.
Impeding is the most prevalent form of lack of nutrition, and is proven to have permanent effects on a child’s growth and development, the report said.
“Nutrition is the cornerstone of all development efforts. This new report tells us that for every one US dollar spent on programs to avert stunting in children below 2 years old, the Philippines could save over 100 US dollars in health, education and lost productivity costs,” Olney said.
“It should outrage us that 95 children will die everyday because of malnutrition,” he added.
Save the Children called on the national and local governments, the private sector and donors to help stop rising malnutrition in the Philippines. JED VILLARAMA