More Filipino children stunted due to malnutrition
MANILA, Philippines—The next generation of Filipinos will probably be shorter and lighter if the incidence of malnutrition in the country remains unchecked.
According to the latest study by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute, three in every 10 Filipino children aged 5 and below are stunted or too short for their age while two in every 10 children also in the same age range are underweight.
Speaking at a media conference on malnutrition, FNRI executive director Dr. Mario Capanzana said it was “alarming” that the stunting trend among children tends to increase as they get older.
Capanzana said stunting, a condition largely irreversible among children, was an indicator of chronic malnutrition. “It’s a multi-faceted problem and there’s no one solution to that,” he said.
He noted that exclusive breastfeeding, which has picked up over the last few years among Filipino mothers, is one of the solutions to stunting but still “not enough.”
When a child reaches 6 months old, he said, mothers must complement breast milk with the right kind of food. “We need to provide appropriate complementary quality food aside from commercially available baby food or weaning food,” said Capanzana.
The study showed that the prevalence of stunting was at 14.1 percent among infants 0-5 months old and 16.2 percent among infants aged 6-11 months old. The incidence of stunted growth among 1-year-olds was monitored at 33.6 percent and among 2-year-olds, 39.3 percent.
Stunting was highest among children aged 3, with 41.5 percent, according to the study.
Aside from stunting, children aged 5 and below were also underweight, according to Capanzana. He noted that the prevalence of underweight children was highest among those aged 4-5 years old at 23.2 percent.
The recent FNRI study also showed that the rate of underweight children was 21.8 percent among those aged 2; 21.7 percent among children aged 3; and 19.5 percent among children aged 1.
Figures also showed that incidence of underweight infants 0-5 months old was 12. 4 percent and among infants 6-11 months old, 15.2 percent.
The good news is that more Filipino mothers are now seeing the importance of exclusive breastfeeding of infants from birth until 6 months, said Capanzana.
In 2011, the rate of exclusive breastfeeding of infants for at least six months reached 46.7 percent, a “significant increase” from the 35.9 percent recorded in 2008, he said. This was also near the target of 50 percent set by the World Health Organization by 2025.
The media conference, also attended by representatives of nongovernmental organizations and the academe, was hosted by the Infant Pediatric and Nutrition Association of the Philippines, which has joined the Department of Education’s “Gulayan sa Paaralan” project launched last year.
The DepEd undertaking was part of the government’s efforts to solve the growing problem of malnutrition, especially among schoolchildren.
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