Davao steps up action vs acute malnutrition

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 29 May) – The city government has given this year more attention to solving acute malnutrition among children below five years old.

Dr. Josephine Villafuerte, city health officer, said Wednesday in the “Generation Nutrition” forum at the Royal Mandaya Hotel that the city is pushing the program due to “strong political will” and for being a tourist destination.

“Despite the development, we can’t deny that there are children who need help from acute malnutrition,” Villafuerte said.

She noted that a death certificate may show that a child died of diarrhea or malaria, but it will never show that the child died of severe acute malnutrition (SAM) or severe wasting.

In her presentation, she cited the types of acute malnutrition as normal, underweight, severely underweight, overweight or obese.

Based on the 2013 Operation Timbang (weighing) in the city, 2,107 children were severely wasted and 4,559 children were wasted.

Talomo South had the highest number of SAM cases with 340 children.

Thirty-four barangays do not have severe wasting cases but still have wasting or moderate acute malnutrition (MAM).

Citing that there have been several feeding programs conducted in the city, Villafuerte said feeding will never help children with acute malnutrition.

Most feeding programs, especially in public elementary schools, serve lugaw or arroz caldo (rice porridge), which what Villafuerte called “tawid gutom” for photo opportunities.

“SAM is a disease and it has to be treated,” Villafuerte said.

She said the city’s Integrated Management of Acute Malnutrition (IMAM), which was signed as an executive order by Mayor Rodrigo Duterte last Wednesday, will treat children with SAM.

The IMAM has four components, namely, community outreach, Out-Patient Therapeutic Program, Inpatient Therapeutic Program and Treatment of MAM through supplementary feeding program.

The supplementary feeding program will provide children ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF), which is a creamy paste packed in a sachet. A SAM child should be fed with RUTF and weighed twice a week by barangay nutrition scholars in eight weeks. As the mother saw the development of her child, she would be encouraged to continue the kind of feeding, Villafuerte said.

Aside from the P6.5 million budget for the IMAM, Councilor Mary Joselle Villafuerte, chair of committee on health, said an additional P10 million is being proposed to the city council.

She said there is a need to conduct community diagnosis to identify problems, including malnutrition, and provide appropriate programs to treat them.

Ma. Teresa Ungson, regional coordinator of the National Nutrition Council 11 who also attended the forum, cited some nutrition related policies in the region. She mentioned a 2014 resolution of the Regional Development Council 11 to include bananas in staple menus for feeding programs.