Stunting: ‘Silent pandemic’ stalks Filipino children | Inquirer News

Stunting: ‘Silent pandemic’ stalks Filipino children

By: - Reporter / @bendeveraINQ
/ 04:52 AM June 16, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is suffering from a “silent pandemic” — childhood stunting as a result of undernutrition, according to the World Bank.

In a report titled “Undernutrition in the Philippines: Scale, Scope, and Opportunities for Nutrition Policy and Programming,” the World Bank found that in 2019, 29 percent of Filipino children age 5 or younger, or one of every three of these children, had stunted growth—which meant they were smaller in height compared with healthier children of the same age.

Across the East Asia and Pacific region, the Philippines had the fifth-highest prevalence of stunting. Worldwide, the country was in the top 10.


“The stunting prevalence of children in the Philippines is of ‘very high’ public health significance,” said the report which was posted on the World Bank’s website on Tuesday.


The report pointed out further, “There are regions with levels of stunting that exceed 40 percent of the population. In Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), 45 percent of children below 5 are stunted; in Mimaropa, 41 percent; Bicol Region, it is 40 percent; Western Visayas, 40 percent; and in Soccsksargen, 40 percent.”


The World Bank blamed stunting mainly on micronutrient undernutrition, which affected infants, children and even pregnant women.

“The persistence of very high levels of childhood undernutrition, despite decades of economic growth and poverty reduction, could lead to a staggering loss of the country’s human and economic potential,” the international lender said.

“A Filipino child with optimal nutrition will have greater cognitive development, stay in school longer, learn more in school, and have a brighter future as an adult, while undernutrition robs other children of their chance to succeed,” the World Bank said further.

The organization also found 19 percent of Filipino children in 2019 to be underweight, while 6 percent of those age 5 and below were considered “wasted”—that is, they had significant weight loss compared to their height, mainly due to starvation or disease.

“When viewed through the lens of the World Bank’s Human Capital Index (HCI), the country’s… HCI score of 0.52 predicts that the future productivity of children born today will be 48 percent below what they might achieve if they were to enjoy complete education and full health,” the report said.


The World Bank said this index “measures the amount of human capital that a child born today can expect to attain by age 18, given the risks of poor health and poor education that prevail in [his or her] country.”

‘Almost no improvements’

The World Bank noted that the past 30 years saw “almost no improvements in the prevalence of undernutrition in the Philippines.”

It further pointed out the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the sharp rise of hunger in the country, citing surveys by the Social Weather Stations.

The World Bank said the Philippines should “build a strong and more coordinated partnership for nutrition [by strengthening] the National Nutrition Council [including its] supervisory and oversight capacities….”

The World Bank also recommended securing adequate domestic funding for nutrition-related programs.

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The organization is due to lend the Philippines $200 million to address child stunting in the country. INQ


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