Alarmed by the worsening malnutrition problem among Filipino children, Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto has proposed a comprehensive health and nutrition program that will provide protection and support for mothers and their children from conception to childhood.
A lynchpin of the program is providing free meals for malnourished children which Recto said can be funded in part by state gaming revenues.
“What we earn from gambling tables we should spend in bringing food to tables. Yung kita sa lotto pwedeng pambili ng lutong pagkain para sa mga bata,” Recto said.
He said that if the Duterte administration is spending billions to give free rice to soldiers and policemen, “then more food should be given to the most vulnerable.”
In Senate Bill 831, Recto cited grim figures from the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) which show that Filipino children are more malnourished today than ever before.
According to the FNRI report, one out of four (26.2 percent) Filipino children aged zero to two are suffering from chronic malnutrition, the highest rate in the last 10 years.
Stunting rate among children under five years old was at 33.5 percent, higher than that of last year at 30.5 percent.
Ten percent of children with cases of stunted growth also grew at an average of 40 percent in just a span of two years, from 2013 to 2015.
The report stated that malnutrition and under-nutrition among pregnant women was also high at 25 percent in 2013.
“This means that even before the children come out from their mother’s womb, they are already malnourished or undernourished. Chances are, they will also suffer from chronic malnutrition and stunted growth as they grow up and will face greater risk of getting ill in the future,” Recto pointed out.
The chronic problem of malnutrition and under-nutrition among Filipino children, Recto said, may only be addressed by establishing a comprehensive children’s health and nutrition program covering all of the country’s 42,000 barangays.
Recto’s proposal covers three major components: the First 1000 Days Program, the Supplementary Feeding Program for Day Care Children, and the School-Based Feeding Program.
For the First 1000 Days Program, the Department of Health (DOH), in coordination with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the DOST through the FNRI and the Local Government Units (LGUs) are mandated to develop a health and nutrition program for pregnant and lactating women and their newborn children up to 1000 days old, in every barangay.
After the first 1000 days, the program shall extend for another year until the children reach the age of three and shall include maternal and child health care services such as counseling and family development sessions.
The program, Recto stressed, must also include necessary feeding in forms of milk and complementary food that will prevent malnutrition.
Under the Supplementary Feeding Program for Day Care Children, the DSWD, in coordination with the LGUs concerned shall institute a Supplementary Feeding Program for children aged three to five in all Day Care Centers nationwide.
“We also have to monitor the children’s weight and height prior to and after the feeding cycle to track their progress and assess the efficacy of the program,” the senator explained.
“To sustain the program outside the Day Care Centers, we must include instruction and counseling to parents on how to attain healthy living at home,” he added.
The School-Based Feeding Program, on the other hand, requires the Department of Education (DepEd) through the Health and Nutrition Center (HNC) to implement a feeding program that will address malnutrition, under-nutrition and short-term hunger among public school children aged six to 12.
The program shall include the provision of one hot, healthy meal to all public school children for a period of not less than 120 days in a year, complemented with health activities such as deworming, food production, waste segregation and composting, good grooming and hygiene, productivity, life and values development trainings.
“We aim to expand the feeding programs by including complementary activities for children to include hygiene and healthy lifestyle and counseling for parents so that the promotion of health and nutrition will become their way of life even outside the schools,” Recto explained.
To ensure sustainability, Recto proposed that the funds for the implementation of the program be included in the budget of the DOH, DSWD and DepEd under the General Appropriations Act.
Another source of fund is the combined gross government share from the income of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation which could reach P40 billion this year.
28 OCT 2014: Recto: Use part of P7.6B overhead for school feeding