malnourished child

Stopping stunted growth in children: DOST to tackle malnourishment in Philippines’ 8 most isolated areas

Eight geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDAs) will soon benefit from the operation of complementary food Production facilities (CFPFs). These include the Ifugao State University (IFSU) in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR); Odiongan, Romblon; Alabel, Sarangani; Sulu State College (SSC); Zamboanga del Norte; Lanao del Norte; Catanduanes; and Tawi-Tawi.

The 8 GIDAs are the priority areas of the Department of Science and Technology’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI) due to persistent malnutrition among infants and young children.

According to the 2019 Expanded National Nutrition Survey (ENNS) of the DOST-FNRI, 3 out of 10 Filipino children under 5 years old are stunted, while 2 out of 10 are underweight.

Stunting, or low length or height-for-age, is the impaired growth and development that children experience due to poor nutrition, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Stunting has long-term effects, such as diminished cognitive and physical development, reduced productive capacity, and poor health, WHO explained. It also warns that intelligence scores of children after the age of 3 years old can no longer be significantly improved even with a better diet. This is because between 6 and 35 months, infants and young children undergo rapid growth and development, and are more susceptible to malnutrition and infections.

WHO declared that the first 1,000 days as the “window of opportunity” when nutrition intervention should be implemented.

The 8 GIDAs are also the priority areas of the Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition (PPAN) for 2017-2022.

The Malnutrition Reduction Program (MRP), an integrated intervention strategy involving nutrition education and technology transfer of complementary food technologies of the DOST-FNRI, has yet to be implemented in these areas.

MRP is a collaboration with the DOST regional and provincial offices, local government units (LGUs), entrepreneurs, academe and other organizations involved in nutrition programs.

Through technology transfer, qualified beneficiaries are provided production equipment and license to produce and commercialize DOST-FNRI complementary food blends and snack foods in their respective communities.

The DOST-FNRI also provides technical assistance in establishing and operationalizing the proposed CFPFs.

Aside from the establishment of CFPFs, the Package for the Improvement of Nutrition of Young Children (DOST-PINOY) will be implemented in these areas. DOST-PINOY provides nutrition education among identified Barangay Health Workers (BHWs) and Barangay Nutrition Scholars (BNSs) on basic nutrition, breastfeeding, complementary feeding, meal planning, safe food handling and preparation, and backyard vegetable gardening. These training and seminars help in enhancing their knowledge and skills to effectively and efficiently implement the program in their localities.

The establishment of these CFPFs and the conduct of DOST-PINOY in priority areas are only some of DOST-FNRI’s science-based intervention programs in combating malnutrition that plagues children and other population groups, not only in GIDAs, but all over the country (DOST-FNRI)