PH 'not performing well' in fight vs different forms of malnutrition

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines remains to be challenged by different forms of malnutrition, National Nutrition Council (NNC) Executive Director Maria-Bernardita Flores said at the launch of the 2017 Global Nutrition Report on Tuesday, January 23.

"[The Global Nutrition Report] provides a picture of how the Philippines performed, and unfortunately for different forms of malnutrition, we're not performing well. We remain to be challenged both for stunting, also for malnutrition of mothers, malnutrition of adults, [and] malnutrition of children," Flores told Rappler after the Philippine launch of the global report.

Christiane Rudert, regional advisor for nutrition of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), presented the report on Tuesday at the House of Representatives.

"In 2017, yet again, the world is off course to meet nutrition targets, and therefore, SDG 2.2," she said, referring to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) that aims to end all forms of malnutrition by 2030.

According to the report, hunger statistics are "going in the wrong direction" now that 815 million people are "going to bed hungry" as compared to 777 million in 2015.

As for other forms of malnutrition, the report said "no country is on track" to meet targets to reduce anemia among women of reproductive age. The report even noted that the number of women with anemia has actually increased since 2012.

"And the inexorable rise in the numbers of children and adults who are overweight and obese continues. The probability of meeting the internationally agreed targets to halt the rise in obesity and diabetes by 2025 is less than 1%," the report also said.

The report said the SDGs "offer a tremendous window of opportunity to reverse or stop these trends."

In the Philippines, UNICEF Philippines Country Representative Lotta Sylwander said the challenge when it comes to nutrition is the lack of understanding of what malnutrition looks like, and what its consequences are.

"I think it is difficult to understand when a child is malnourished and what it actually does to a child long term," Sylwander told Rappler after the launch.

She added: "Communities, barangays can actually do something easily to remedy this, and it's not necessarily the lack of food that causes malnutrition in the Philippines, it's more the lack of understanding."

For instance, Sylwander said communities can help in making sure mothers who are pregnant and expecting are well-fed, not anemic, and not malnourished. Sylwander also recommended breastfeeding for babies.

Flores said the 2017 Global Nutrition Report is a tool to communicate to policymakers, as well as stakeholders in barangays, that "we need to give attention to nutrition issues."

A separate report on the costs of undernutrition in the Philippines was also launched on Tuesday by UNICEF, the Department of Health, the NNC, and the Philippine Legislators' Committee on Population and Development. –

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.