Two young children died the other day because they ate rotten food recovered from a garbage can and brought home by their father. “As the cliche goes, they are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. They’ll die of starvation if they don’t eat, but they’ll die anyway if they eat the garbage that they are able to scrounge from the trash cans.”
The malnutrition prevalence among children in the Philippines has remained alarmingly high in the last 10 years. Results of the Updating of the 8th National Nutrition Survey conducted by Food and Nutrition Research Institute in 2015 showed that there are still about two to three out of 10 children ages 0 to 10 years who are underweight (21.6% for children ages 0-5 years old and 31.2% prevalence for 5.08-10 years old). About the same proportion (33.5% and 31.1% respectively) are stunted which indicates chronic or long-standing malnutrition. The study also reveals that prevalence of acute or severe cases of malnutrition at 7.1% for 0-5 years old and 8.4% for 5.08-10 years old. Being underweight increases the risk of death and inhibits cognitive development in children. This translates to about 8 million Filipino children whose future and our country’s future are at stake. According to the World Health Organization, malnutrition prevalence of 5% is considered of public health significance.
The FNRI survey also revealed the regions which have the highest prevalence of malnutrition. (please see photos below:)
According to the World Health Organization, malnutrition prevalence of 5% is considered of public health significance. The prevalence rates of underweight and under-height among our Filipino children based on FNRI study are of high magnitude; they are definitely considered of public health concern. This calls for a more focused action on the part of the government as well as of the private sector to address the problem seriously.
To help mitigate this problem, the Pondo ng Pinoy Community Foundation, then headed by Cardinal Gaudencio B. Rosales and 13 other bishops launched the HAPAG-ASA Integrated Nutrition Program in July 2005 in partnership with Assisi Development Foundation and Feed the Children Philippines. Recently, Feed My Starving Children (FMSC), Risen Saviour Missions (RSM), CBCP-NASSA Caritas Filipinas Foundation and CBCP Episcopal Commission on Health Care joined the efforts of Hapag-Asa in fighting malnutrition in the Philippines.
HAPAG-ASA feeds 1 to 12 years old undernourished children and underweight pregnant and lactating women in the community once a day, five days a week for 6 months. Each meal is enriched with nutrients through the provision of Food Supplements complete with vitamins and minerals. These are Vitameal from FTC and MannaPack Food Supplements from FMSC through RSM. Vitameal is a mixture of rice and lentil, MannaPack Fortified Rice is made of rice, soya and dehydrated vegetables while MannaPack Fortified Potato is made of potatoes with sweet potato flavor.
Apart from the supplemental feeding, education classes and livelihood and skills training for parents, aimed at sustaining the improved nutritional condition of the children are conducted simultaneously. The education classes cover topics on affective parenting, health and nutrition, responsible parenthood and values and livelihood. Livelihood and skills training are conducted with small capital lent to help them help themselves and their children, in partnership with government and non-government organizations.
The program is primarily implemented through the Church with more than 30 dioceses nationwide carrying out the program. But this is not solely a Church matter; other sectors like non-government organizations (NGOs), foundations and local government units (LGUs) have also been inspired to take on the cause and adopted the program.
LEAD PARTNER ORGANIZATIONS
- Pondo ng Pinoy Community Foundation, Inc. (link to their website: www.pondongpinoy.com.ph)Provides assistance in the form of food subsidy to its member dioceses.
- Assisi Development Foundation, Inc. (www.assisi-foundation.org)Serves as the program Secretariat providing needed technical assistance to the partners who are interested to implement the program
- Feed My Starving Children (fmsc.org)Manufactures the MannaPack Food Supplements with the help of thousands of their volunteers and donates them to organizations doing feeding.
- Feed the Children Philippines, Inc. (www.ftcphils.org)Donates the Vitameal that provides the added nutrients to the food of the identified malnourished children.
- Risen Savior Missions (http://risensaviormissions.org)Donates and arranges sending of MannaPack Food Supplements to the Philippines.
- CBCP-NASSA Caritas Filipinas Foundation, Inc. (http://nassa.org.ph/) and CBCP Episcopal Commission on Health CareAssists in the promotion of the program to possible implementing partners.
Program implementation is not limited to Catholic Groups even if the program is a Catholic Church initiative. Partners may include
- NGOs (include other non-catholic churches)
- LGUs and Government Agencies (NNC, LGUs, DSWD etc.)
- To develop the culture of SHARING & LOVING to our neighbors as demonstrated in the Miracle of the Multiplication of loaves & fish (Mt. 14:13-21)
- To reduce malnutrition prevalence rate among 0 to 12 years old children
- To improve capacity of parents to care and provide for basic needs of their children