Editorial | Haunted by undernutrition

Nutrition indicators show that we lag behind most of our neighboring countries in the ASEAN region and, sad to say, even when compared to developing countries in Africa.

In yesterday’s privilege speech of Senator Loren Legarda on “The Economic Cost of Undernutrition in the Philippines, “she detailed how continued undernutrition of our children can have dire effects on the overall trajectory of our development.

According to Legarda, undernutrition is the direct or indirect cause of almost half of child deaths. The country was very close to achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals which ended in 2015, but we failed to improve the prevalence of underweight children under five years of age using the Child Growth Statistics Standard.

Legarda said over 29,000 Filipino children below five die each year due to undernutrition or about 38% of all deaths among Filipino children under five. She also cited that one million Filipino children suffer from severe or moderate acute malnutrition each year, 14 of the nutrition indicators show that over 28 million children suffer from undernutrition.

The impact of this is long term.

Legarda underlined that “undernutrition is not only associated with child survival and physical health, it is also a threat to psychological, cognitive development. The damage is largely irreversible. It not only affects children’s physical growth, it also diminishes their learning capacity and school performance. Later in life as adults and professionals, they have lower productivity and reduced earnings by half.”

The negative impacts of undernutrition have a direct effect on our economic growth: it erodes people’s strength and energy, creative and analytical capacity, initiative, and entrepreneurial drive.

The glowing economic indicators of this administration should be felt by the people. This would entail programs that will truly make an impact on the children who are in poor households, indigenous communities and coastal communities. This fight to mitigate undernutrition takes a strengthened local government unit and determined government agencies to succeed.

Posted in Opinion