Fewer children in Central Visayas underweight

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

MALNUTRITION among pre-school children in Central Visayas has steadily decreased in the last 10 years, from a rate of 13.77 percent in 2004 to 5.54 percent last year.

But gains in the campaign to eradicate malnutrition should not make government and families complacent, an official of the National Nutrition Council (NNC) 7 said.

Susan Orpilla, nutrition officer III of the NNC, said that local government units (LGUs) and government agencies should sustain programs aimed at improving the nutrition of children.


LGUs and government agencies should continue to promote urban gardening in vacant spaces in the barangays and schools to make nutritious food like fruits and vegetables easily available to poor households.

Orpilla said that unlike the previous years, local officials are now more active in ensuring the health and nutrition of their constituents, and communities are now more cooperative.

"We now have a better picture in terms of the nutrition of our children in Central Visayas, mostly because of the local chief executives' programs. They are now more aware of the nutritional needs of the children, and the budget for nutrition programs is increasing," she said.

Orpilla presented the trend in nutrition in Region 7 during the Association of Government Information Officers' forum yesterday as part of the Nutrition Month activities. The theme for this year's observance is "Kalamidad paghandaan: Gutom at malnutrisyon agapan! (Prepare for calamity: fight hunger and malnutrition)."

NNC records showed that of the 1,089,361 pre-school children (zero to six years) who were weighed from January to March last year, majority or 1,018,111 still had normal weight for their age and height.


Only about 60,370 were underweight and another 10,880 were overweight.
Of the 60,370 children who weighed less than the ideal weight for their age, 11,299 were severely underweight.

Among the provinces and cities in the region, Lapu-Lapu City had the lowest malnutrition rate at 1.28 percent, with 745 underweight children out of the 58,323 children who were weighed.

Guihulngan City in Negros Oriental had the highest at 10.24 percent, or 1,419 underweight children out of the 13,584 children weighed.

The NNC defines malnutrition as a condition caused by the lack or excess or imbalance in one or more of the nutrients. It results in reduced resistance to diseases, and often leads to stunting and impairment of bodily functions.

Orpilla also noted changes in the Filipino diet that may trigger malnutrition, including the increased consumption of fish, meat, poultry and eggs, and less fruits and vegetables and complex carbohydrates.

She also lamented that at an early age, children often prefer to eat junk food, fast food and street food lacking in nutrients.

So urban poor families can eat fruits and vegetables, Annie Saavedra of the Cebu City Agriculture Office urged the mothers to engage in urban gardening.


Even with the limited open spaces in urban barangays, she said that mothers can use water containers or sacks for planting green leafy vegetables.

"Some say they cannot buy vegetables because they're very poor and don't have money. But we keep telling them that if they would only plant even just malunggay or alugbati, that's already one kind of vegetable at their doorstep," Saavedra said during the forum.

To sustain the decrease in malnutrition rate, the Department of Agriculture (DA) 7 has been providing assistance to LGUs and the Department of Education (DepEd) 7 so that urban gardening and farming will be implemented in all public schools and barangays.

Dr. Roland Villegas of DepEd 7 said they already incorporated the food security program and farming in the curriculum to teach high school students urban gardening and organic farming.

Ronnie Jamola, DA 7's focal person for Reconstruction Assistance for Yolanda, also said that planting vegetables in the backyard can help every household cope with the increasing prices of vegetables.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 23, 2014.

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