Budget increase pushed for Davao’s nutrition office

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 12 Feb) – The incidences of malnutrition in the city has pushed some councilors to suggest increasing the budget of the City Health Office’s Nutrition Office.

A presentation by Action Against Hunger (ACF International)’s Celna Tejare showed that there were 6,666 cases of moderate and severe acute malnutrition in the city as of 2013. Tejare presented the information at the Sangguniang Panlungsod’s privilege hour last Tuesday.

According to the World Health Organization, severe acute malnutrition “is defined by a very low weight for height (below -3z scores of the median WHO growth standards), by visible severe wasting, or by the presence of nutritional edema.”

Meanwhile, moderate acute malnutrition “is defined as a weight-for-height between -3 and -2 z-scores of the median of the WHO child growth standards without edema.”

The data showed that the highest incidences of severe and moderate acute malnutrition occurred in the 2nd district, with 753 and 1,775 cases recorded in 2013, respectively.

According to data collected by ACF and the CHO, the budget for treating children with severe acute malnutrition has reached up to P10.2 million, with P6.5 million to cover medicines, measuring tools, trainings, and meetings and P3.7 million to cover the purchase of 262 height boards and 188 salter scales for the city’s 182 barangays.

However, the City Council learned during last Tuesday’s regular session at the Sangguniang Panlungsod that the budget of the Nutrition Office for the entire year was only around P6 million for the entire year.

“P6 million for one year is a non-budget,” Councilor Diosdado Mahipus said, alarmed at the figures presented by the council’s committee on health.

Councilor Jimmy Dureza suggested that the committee raise the budget of the office through a supplemental budget that would be passed by the council, instead of the committee asking for pledges from councilors to add to the CHO’s budget.

The city health budget suffered an upsetting decrease for 2014, according to the city council committee chair on health Mary Joselle Villafuerte in an earlier interview.

Villafuerte said that the city’s health budget should enjoy an annual increase.

The Comprehensive Investment Plan for Health (CIPH), a Sara Duterte-era document outlining the city’s health framework, calls for an increased LGU budget for health, with an increased allocation from 8.3 percent in 2010 to 18 percent by 2016.

According to a copy of the budget report by the council’s finance committee, the City Health Office will be receiving P257 million allocation for calendar year 2014, at 6.2 percent of the city’s total budget.

According to the CIPH document, the incidence of protein energy malnutrition has seen a decrease from 2007 to 2010.

“Nutritional status among the 0-71 months old improved from 6.76 percent underweight for age in 2007 to 4.75 percent in 2010. Over the four-year period, 2007-2010, a decreasing trend was noted,” the CIPH said.

There were also less overweight children than the underweight, it added.

“Despite the improvement, there are still districts and barangays with high prevalence of underweight children that deserve attention. Cited problems for the high prevalence include: poverty, poor feeding practices, low awareness on basic nutrition concepts and care giving practices,” according to the document.

Villafuerte said in a phone interview that she will be waiting for a document from the CHO itemizing its offices’ needs so that budget increases may be proposed in time for next week’s finance committee hearing for the city executive offices’ supplemental budgets.