LOOK: Save the Children Philippines wants to break the cycle of stunting in children

Save the Children Philippines has raised the urgency of diverse and immediate implementation of social protection, health, and nutrition programs for vulnerable families to end stunting among children that remains unresolved for decades.

The child rights organization made the call in time for President Duterte’s penultimate State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, where he is expected to report on the country’s status and the government’s agenda on COVID-19 pandemic response.

“As the Philippines marks the 30th year of ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a huge number of children still languish in prolonged hunger and undernutrition worsened by the present health crisis,” said Atty. Alberto Muyot, Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children Philippines.

The convention respects and fulfills the rights of every child to survival and development, to be protected from discrimination and violence, and to be given a platform to speak up and be listened to by adults and the government.

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Rosalie plays with her eight-month-old daughter Rachel inside the Bauan Cockpit Arena in Batangas, occupied by evacuees who fled their homes after a phreatic eruption from the Taal Volcano on January 12, 2020. Photo taken on January 14, 2020.

Meanwhile, the World Bank’s Systematic Country Diagnostic report in June 2020 described the overall child nutrition picture in the Philippines as a puzzle where the country’s stunting rate stagnated between 2000 and 2015 despite the improvement of health and economic standards. It cited that 11 of the 17 regions expose up to 50 percent of children to stunting due to a high incidence of poverty.

Save the Children Philippines, in its almost forty years of operations, has been addressing issues on malnutrition and stunting among Filipino children through its different health and nutrition support programs.

In 2016, Save the Children Philippines began to implement Project NURTURE (Nutrition among Urban Poor through Unified Response) in eight deprived barangays in Navotas City. Now, it has expanded to Villareal, Samar on July 6, 2020, to protect deprived and marginalized children from chronic and acute malnutrition, as part of its COVID-19 response.

It advocated for the enactment of the First 1,000 Days Law (Republic Act No. 11148 or Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Mag-Nanay Act) in November 2019 that seeks to reduce malnutrition rates by focusing on high-impact and evidence-based nutrition interventions and programs to children and lactating mothers.

Both World Bank and Save the Children Philippines consider stunting as cyclical because women who were themselves stunted in childhood tend to have stunted children. Good health and nutrition in the first 1,000 days from conception to the first two years of a child have the greatest power to break the vicious cycle.

“The Philippines is one of the countries in the world with the highest number of stunted children. We hope that as we face the global pandemic as one nation, the government will put a premium on child protection against hunger and sickness to ensure their survival,” said Muyot.

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