ILOILO City – Malnutrition has become a “national emergency,” according to the National Nutrition Council (NNC).
In Western Visayas , Antique has the most number of malnutrition cases among children below five years old, results of NNC 2017 Operation Timbang Plus showed.
On the national level, the Food and Nutrition Research Institute placed the incidence of malnutrition among preschool children at 33.4 percent, according to NNC executive director Maria-Bernardita Flores.
The problem is palpable in barangays where there are nutrition problems, she told Iloilo journalists yesterday.
In Antique, there is undernutrition (6.86 percent), stunting (12.69 percent) and wasting (3.75 percent) among preschool children, said Dr. Azucena Dayanghirang, deputy executive director of NNC who was with Flores.
NNC is the country’s highest policy-making and coordinating body on nutrition.
“Long hungry” pregnant women could not transfer enough nourishment to their unborn children, resulting to low birth weight, said Flores.
The Philippines is No. 9 among countries with the highest malnutrition rates, she revealed.
The World Health Organization defines malnutrition as deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy and/or nutrients.
Undernutrition is a form of malnutrition and includes stunting (low height for age), wasting (low weight for height), underweight (low weight for age) and micronutrient deficiencies or insufficiencies (a lack of important vitamins and minerals).
Dayanghirang cited Gov. Rhodora Cadiao for immediately taking action such as allotted P9 million for a supplementary feeding program in Antique barangays.
Negros Occidental also has a high incidence of undernutrition among preschool children at 5.96 percent, said Dayanghirang, with stunting at 12.50 percent and wasting at 4.03 percent.
As the country’s highest policy-making and coordinating body on nutrition, NNC formulates national food and nutrition policies and strategies and serve as the policy, coordinating and advisory body of food, nutrition and health concerns.
It also coordinates planning, monitoring and evaluation of the national nutrition program and the hunger mitigation and malnutrition prevention program.
“We want to find severely acute cases of malnutrition, those that their families are hiding because they are ashamed, ‘yung mga halos buto’t balat na,” said Flores.
NNC has identified 36 “focus provinces” and these included Antique and Negros Occidental.
It targets to cut down the malnutrition rate to 21 percent by 2022.
NNC’s other task is to strengthen competencies and capabilities of stakeholders through public education, capacity building and skills development.
“We want to harness volunteerism, which is already rich in our culture,” Flores said.
Currently, there are about 42,300 barangay nutrition scholars across the country, she revealed.
Though BNSs are volunteers, they receive honorarium from their local government units ranging from P200 to P2,000 depending on funding capacity, and a travel allowance of P70./PN