By Minerva Newman
CEBU CITY—The Philippines is one of the 10 countries in the world with the highest number of stunted or shorter children and ranks 5th among countries in the East Asia Pacific Region with the highest stunting prevalence rate, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
National Nutrition Council (NNC-7) regional director Parolita Mission, in a meeting with the Media Information Network for Nutrition and Development (MIND-7), said that one in three Filipino children, with ages 0-59 months or five years old and below, are stunted, with stunting highest at 36.6 percent among the 12-23-months-old children.
Mission said that stunting or shorter growth is not hereditary. It has direct correlation to the children’s nutrition in the first 1000 days of their growth. Stunting after the age of two is irreversible but can be prevented by ensuring that nutrition, health, and social services are available in the first 1000 days of every child.
“The first 1000 days are crucial for the child’s growth and it is necessary to closely monitor the child’s weight, exclusively breastfeeding them, and observe good hygiene practices to prevent stunting,” Mission added.
Based on the 2019 Operation Timbang Plus (OPT Plus) results, only 1 out of 10 or 10.25 percent of children in Central Visayas who are 5-years and below are stunted, Mission said.
She added that although the data showed a slight 1.69 percent decrease from 11.94 percent in 2019, the data revealed that more Filipino children in Central Visayas suffer from chronic malnutrition.
Based on the 2019 OPT Plus survey results, Central Visayas has 75,535 children that are stunted, 29,742 are underweight, 20,536 are overweight/obese, and 18,949 are wasted.
Mission said there is a decrease in its malnutrition rate at 6.8 percent for underweight, 14.2 percent for stunting, 15 percent in wasting, and 15.2 percent for overweight/obesity.
She said that both Negros Oriental and Cebu malnutrition prevalence in all indicators are significantly higher than the regional average.
Siquijor province is below the regional average in under-nutrition but high in over nutrition, a trend that Siquijor has consistently maintained over the past three years, Mission said.
Other local government units, including the cities of Toledo, Lapu-Lapu, and Canlaon have consistently increase in the prevalence of nutrition status in the underweight, stunting, and overweight indicators, she pointed out.
Mission said there is a greater need to correct the common belief among Filipino mothers and other frontline health workers that stunting or being short is hereditary and not considered a problem.
“The next National Nutrition campaign will be focused on raising awareness on the impact of stunting based on evidence-based solutions among families and communities that leads to behavior change to prevent stunting,” Mission bared.
According to Mission, there is a need to generate concrete commitment among the various stakeholders to scale up nutrition actions and to stimulate national and local discussions on stunting to understand its causes and come up with multi-sectoral solutions and other interventions.