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Fighting Hunger – Malnutrition in the Philippines

Our world is producing an average of 3.9 billion tons of food for human consumption annually which is abundantly enough for 7.3 billion mouths waiting to be fed. But a lot of people are still struggling on scarcity of food and hunger. It is recommended to consume at least 2,100 calories a day but nearly 925 million people were consuming less on a daily basis and this nutrient-deprivation may result to malnutrition.

malnutrition-philippines

Malnutrition, as defined by UNICEF, is a broad term commonly used as an alternative to undernutrition but technically it also refers to over-nutrition. People are malnourished if their diet does not provide adequate calories and protein for growth and maintenance or they are unable to fully utilize the food they eat due to illness (undernutrition). They are also malnourished if they consume too many calories (over-nutrition). Malnutrition is a result of inadequate intake of nutrients needed by our body to function well and is mainly caused by lack of food which frequently occurs on poor and developing countries mostly in Africa and Asia.

Statistical data by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization show that about 805 million people or roughly 11.3%, one of nine, of the whole population of the world are undernourished as recorded in 2012-2014. Almost all of them, 791 million, live in developing countries representing 13.5% of the population of developing countries and an estimated average of 11 million people are undernourished in developing countries.

Among the regions, Asia has the highest majority of malnourished people with 525.6 million, almost as twice as many as Africa with 226.7 million undernourished people. In Asia, India has the most undernourished children with nearly 58 million followed by Pakistan, China, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Philippines with almost 3.5 million known cases of malnutrition on children.

How do we address malnutrition in the Philippines?

Hunger, poverty and malnutrition amongst the children are just few of the many problems our country currently faces. Malnutrition may occur on the absence of proper nutrition in the first 1,000 days of life, or from pregnancy to the 2 years of age.

As stated by the Global Hunger Index (GHI), the Philippines ranks 28th in the world when it comes to hunger. It is also included in the 38 countries that attributes for 90% of the global burden of malnutrition.

The Department of Health together with the LGUs and Non-Government Organizations is working hand-in-hand in order to conclude malnutrition’s toll on children around the country and a Food Assistance Program for malnourished children has been implemented as a temporary solution for hunger. Feeding programs have been the most popular strategy of most countries of which malnutrition is a main concern. According to the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), the Philippine Food Assistance Program reportedly reaches an average of 1.3 million preschoolers, 1.2M schoolchildren and 0.3M pregnant and lactating women fed annually.

The government’s first concern in its commitment to the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is the “eradication of extreme hunger and malnutrition due to poverty.” The MDGs major plan in combatting hunger is to completely reduce the proportion of people suffering from hunger by half, specifically underweight children under 5 years of age.

UNICEF reported in 2013 that despite efforts from the government and various non-governmental groups,  the Philippines shows “insufficient progress” in putting malnutrition and hunger to an end.

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