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Two in every 10 Filipino children aged 5 and below are underweight, survey says

Undernutrition is one of the conditions that falls under the category of malnutrition. The latter develops in an individual as a result of insufficient food intake and lack of proper nutrients in the body.

The World Health Organization (WHO) identified poverty as the main cause of malnutrition because people are not eating the right kind of food they need. The 2010 report from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations revealed that 925 million people worldwide were undernourished.

According to FAO, the number of hungry people has increased since 1997 due to the following factors: 1) neglect of agriculture relevant to very poor people by governments and international agencies; 2) current worldwide economic crisis, and 3) the significant increase of food prices.

In the Philippines, results of the 2011 Nutritional Status of Filipinos, a survey conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST), showed that two in every 10 children aged 5 and below are underweight.

According to FNRI, underweight, stunting and wasting remain to be a health problem among children 0 to 5 years old. Infants 6 to 11 months were the most vulnerable to wasting (low weight for height); three-year old children were the most affected by stunting while children 4 to 5 years were most prone to underweight..

Regional results of the survey showed that twelve regions have high incidence of underweight children due to poverty. These are: Cagayan Valley, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan (MIMAROPA), Bicol, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, Northern Mindanao, Davao, South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani at General Santos City (SOCCSKSARGEN), Caraga, and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Overall, based on the FNRI survey, there was no improvement in the nutritional status of children between 2008 and 2011.

β€œTo achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target by 2015 for the underweight prevalence of under-five children, there should be an average reduction of at least 1.65% underweight children per year.” said Ms. Ma. Lilibeth P. Dasco, Senior Science Research Specialist of FNRI.

To address the problem on malnutrition, the FNRI is currently implementing the program, Science and Technology-Based Interventions to Address Malnutrition or the Sulong Pinoy Program. Through the program, FNRI aims to reduce the prevalence of undernutrition among young children in the country. Three component projects comprise the program: 1) the production and technology transfer of FNRI complementary snack foods; 2) DOST PINOY (Package for the Improvement of Nutrition of Young Children) – feeding program for children and nutrition education classes for mothers and caregivers; and 3) technology generation for the production of multi-nutrient growth mix which involves vitamin fortification of FNRI complementary snack foods.