SENATOR and chair of the Senate committee on Health Christopher “Bong” Go called on government to boost the response against COVID-19 by strengthening the nutrition and other health interventions directed toward low-income Filipinos, especially pregnant and lactating women and children below five years of age.
Go expressed deep concern that the pandemic has exacerbated food insecurity and malnutrition among struggling families, and urged both public and private sectors to work together and improve access to nutrition, particularly for those in disadvantaged areas and communities and geographically isolated locations.
“Huwag natin kalimutan na isa sa mga prayoridad ng administrasyon na ito ay ang itaguyod ang kapakanan ng mga kabataan at kababaihan, kaya ngayong panahon ng pandemya, mahalaga na ipagpatuloy natin ang mga nasimulan ni Pangulong [Rodrigo] Duterte, gaya ng mga bagong programa laban sa malnutrisyon,” he said.
Go urged concerned agencies, particularly the Department of Health, to utilize its allocated funds for the implementation of a Complementary Feeding Program.
He added that sufficient funding must be placed for the dietary supplementation program of six- to 23-month-old children under the Early Childhood Care and Development Program. This initiative must also include pregnant women and children of formative years in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Dapat siguraduhin na maayos, sapat at masustansya ang pagkain ng mga bata, lalo na ‘yung mga mahihirap at nasa vulnerable sectors. Pampalakas po ito ng resistensya. Kapag malakas ang inyong resistensya, mas lalaban po ang ating katawan laban sa COVID-19, hindi basta-bastang mahahawa,” Go explained.
In 2017, the National Nutrition Council launched the Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition 2017-2022 which identified 38 priority areas around the country for nutrition interventions.
The senator pointed out that malnourished children are at a greater risk from common infections due to their weakened immune systems. This is made evident by the fact that nearly half of all deaths among children between zero and five years of age are attributable to undernutrition, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund.
He stressed the need to improve the health and well-being of mothers, children and infants to avoid any more preventable deaths as well as enhance the overall health of the population in the long run. It must be noted that one’s diet during childhood is an important predetermining factor of one’s health later in life.
In 2018, President Duterte signed Republic Act No. 11037, otherwise known as the Masustansyang Pagkain Para Sa Batang Pilipino Act, which provided for the creation of a national feeding program for undernourished kids in public daycare centers and in kindergarten and elementary schools.
The program is comprised of seven components that will be carried out within a five-year period. These components include a supplemental feeding program for daycare children, school-based feeding program, milk feeding program, health examination and vaccinations, and the provision of micronutrient supplements, among others.
As the lead agency, the NNC is responsible for identifying individuals, groups and communities that have the highest magnitude of hunger and undernutrition by harmonizing all existing national and local nutrition databases from the national government agencies, local government units and other relevant agencies of government.