MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines is among the countries with the worst conditions for children growing up, a new report revealed.
Save the Children’s “Stolen Childhood” report released Thursday, June 1, said the country ranked 96th out of 172 countries in its End of Childhood Index.
The End of Childhood Index assessed countries and identified where are the children able to enjoy their childhood and where they are deprived of it.
During the launch of the report on International Children’s Day also on Thursday, Save the Children country director Ned Olney said the Philippines even lags behind its Southeast Asian neighbors Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia.
Among the indicators, it was in child mortality, stunting, and adolescent births that the Philippines has the worst rates. Death before reaching 5 years of age is at 28%, stunting at 30.3%, and teenage pregnancy is at 62.7%.
Poverty remains the common culprit behind the risky conditions for Filipino children, said Olney.
“In each indicator, that’s what is happening to poor families in much greater numbers. If you break down the statstics by quantile…it’s a sliding scale, it’s really high when you are poor and down to really low if you’re rich,” he explained.
The organization’s health and nutrition advisor Dr Amado Parawan noted that these 3 drivers are all related to causing a “vicious cycle” of a “stolen childhood” for Filipino kids.
“We found that a lot of malnourished children, when you look at their mothers, they are teen moms. And 50% of child mortality is attributed to malnutrition and wasting. And, of course, it is a vicious cycle,” said Parawan.
Of the 3 indicators, the report noted stunting as the most prevalent problem in the Philippines. (READ: Why you should care about stunting)
“Stunted growth is caused by the chronic malnutrition in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life. Chronic malnutrition at this stage of this life is largely irreversible and stunted children face a lifetime of lost opportunities in education and work,” the report explained.
Around 3.6 million Filipino kids suffer from it. The same report also ranked the country 9th in the Top 10 countries with the highest prevalence of stunting.
Olney said the government has failed to address the malnutrition problem due to lack of budgetary provision.
Only 0.52% of government spending is alloted for programs specific to fighting malnutrition. This pales in comparison to other Southeast Asian countries that allot as much as 2%, which is already enough, said Olney.
A strategic review on food security and nutrition in the Philippines commissioned by the World Food Programme group also raised that most of the social services that have bigger funding do not directly target malnutrition – an example of which is the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps). (READ: Malabon winning the battle against malnutrition)
“Rather, programs directed specifically against hunger and malnutrition appear to have been under-funded, both at the national and especially at the local levels,” said the review done in partnership with the Office of the Vice President.
Olney said the governmment should allocate more budget for improving nutrition and at the same time support the 1,000 days bill in the Senate.
The measure, Senate Bill 136, seeks to establish a comprehensive program in every barangay to ensure the nutrition of children in the first 1,000 days of life. The measure is pending at the committee level. – Rappler.com