KIDAPAWAN CITY (March 27/Monday) – Close to 600 malnourished children from two of the poorest towns of North Cotabato province are undergoing treatment and are being monitored by the rural health units, in partnership with a foreign-funded non-government organization (NGO).
The Action Against Hunger, known internationally as Action Contre la Faim (ACF), said 155 are considered severely acute malnourished and 417 are moderate acute malnourished.
The ACF considers acute malnutrition as the greatest pandemic of the 21st Century, affecting over 640,000 children under five in the Philippines.
The ACF has partnered with rural health units (RHUs) from President Roxas and Arakan to conduct screening of 10,598 children aged 6-59 months.
Among those screened, the group detected 572 globally acute malnourished (GAM) who are now undergoing treatment by the outpatient and inpatient therapeutic program organized by the ACF in partnership with the RHUs.
Dr. Martin Parreno, medical nutrition coordinator of ACF in the Philippines, said the best way to treat acute malnutrition in children is to prevent it, and the best way to prevent it is to support pregnant and lactating women.
Parreno, also spokesperson of the Philippine Acute Malnutrition Advocacy Initiative, said that at the frontline of the fight against acute malnutrition are pregnant and lactating women.
“Their diet before and during pregnancy is the only source of nutrition for the fetus, and their breast milk should be the only
source of nutrition for the newborn until six months, as breast milk boosts a baby’s immune system with anti-bodies, while developing his/her gastro-intestinal system,” he stressed.
Meantime, the ACF reported that after the devastation brought about by Tropical Storm Sendong in December, an estimated 22,750 pregnant and lactating women need access to essential food items, such as rice, meat, vegetables and fruits.
“Food donations from the private sector, which have been high during the first few weeks after Sendong, continue to decrease, and food rations are limited to just two kilograms of rice, one pack of noodles, and one can of sardines for a family of six,” it said in a statement.
The ACF, in support to pregnant mothers in Sendong-hit areas, started the distribution of cash vouchers to some 3,000 pregnant and lactating women. Each received cash vouchers totaling P1,700 to augment their diet.
The cash voucher distribution, which started on Feb. 23 and ended last week, is part of ACF’s immediate humanitarian response to those most affected by Sendong, with funding assistance from the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO), the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), and Ajuntamento de Barcelona, Spain.
“The availability of essential food items in markets, as well as the accessibility of markets, has made cash transfer programming a cost-effective, and not to mention timely, assistance to affected populations,” said Demos Militante, food security and livelihood coordinator of ACF in the Philippines.
“However, more than merely invigorating local markets, cash transfer programming upholds the beneficiaries’ dignity and right to choose. For a mother with a child to feed, variety is as important as quantity.” (Malu Cadeliña Manar / MindaNews)