The Philippines was not able to meet its goal to eradicate extreme hunger in children, according to an official of the Department of Health (DOH).
Health Assistant Secretary Bernardita Flores said the country has to do more to curb the number of children suffering from malnutrition. The eradication of child hunger was among the country’s targets listed in the United Nation’s (UN) Millennium Development Goals (MDG).
“We did not achieve the MDG for many reasons. For one, there are still many people living in poverty. Also, we cannot reach most of the children [who live in far-flung areas], and most of them are kids who are under six years old, even three to four-year-olds in daycare centers. There are still a lot of kids who are underweight for their age,” Flores said during the launch of the UNICEF National Guidelines on Malnutrition.
The MDG lists eight goals that world leaders vowed to achieve by 2015 — combating global poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation, and discrimination against women.
Flores said efforts to curb hunger will have to focus on underweight children under five years old.
Recent data from the National Nutrition Survey 2013 showed that underweight prevalence went down to 19.9 percent from 20.2 percent in 2011.
However, the slow reduction of underweight prevalence for the last 10 years did not meet the 50 percent goal in reduction set by the MDG in eradicating extreme poverty and hunger.
This target sets a goal to halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger between 1990 and 2015.
The guidelines provided by UNICEF and local health agencies aims to aid health and nutrition workers in determining cases of child malnutrition, especially those with severe acute malnutrition (SAM), nationwide.
Acute malnutrition or wasting occurs when an individual suffers from severe nutritional restrictions, illness, inappropriate childcare practices, or a combination of any of those.
According to the UNICEF report, children with SAM are nine times more likely to die than well-nourished children.
“This will be very helpful in capacitating our health workers and local chief executives. We will be able to quantify how many children need help, especially those living in hard-to-reach areas, and to extend help to them,” Flores said.
She called on the candidates who will be elected to national positions next year to allocate a budget for “appropriate interventions” to feed nutritious food to young children.
“The opportunity we see right now is the national elections. Although there are many local chief executives who are progressive and developmental-oriented, there are still some who need to be educated in terms of appreciation on what malnutrition does to development, whether locally or nationally,” Flores said.