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PIA Press Release

Malnutrition linked to neglect of parents, poverty, lifestyle

by Rizalie A. Calibo

Siquijor (10 October) -- Malnutrition remains the leading nutritional problem in the Philippines. According to a nutritional report, malnutrition in the Philippines is caused by a host of interrelated factors - health, physical, social, economic and others.

But for Siquijor province, health provider/workers here identify neglect of parents as one of the leading causes of malnutrition.

"Malnutrition exists due to neglect of parents, poverty and lifestyle," says municipal social welfare and development officer Susan Siao of the municipality of Siquijor, which registered the highest malnutrition rate in the province.

This was confirmed by Provincial Social Welfare and Development Officer Thomas Villarubia who also said that although a number of government programs and interventions were focused on barangays with highest prevalence of malnutrition, there seems to be no improvement because parents do not fully cooperate. He cited that of San Juan town's milk feeding program which supplied locally-produced milk by the town's dairy farmers, where parents sometimes, if not always, failed to give the supply to their children on time that led to the spoiling of milk.

Due to neglect of parents who seemed preoccupied with their work, the quality of food served is consequently sacrificed, he said. For those who do not have the resources, poverty is the main reason for malnutrition, he added.

Lifestyle, which include the parents' priority over that of their children's health, sanitation and the amount of time spent for their children, is also attributed to the problem. Sometimes, parents prefer 'instant' food like noodles, etc. than affordable fresh vegetables because they do not want to be disturbed from their vices, he said referring to the parents who prefer "sugal like bingo, baraha (gambling like "bingo", cards) and more than taking care of the health of their children.

Cleanliness and sanitation also matter, another health worker said. Even if food is nutritious if its handling is done haphazardly, the quality suffers, she added.

In Siquijor town, for example, it is very ironic that most of the barangays where malnutrition is prevalent are beneficiaries of the projects of Early Child Care Development (ECCD) Program, Belgian Integrated Agrarian Support Programme (BIARSP) and the like.

According to Ms. Helen Jimenez, Nutritionist-Dietician II at the Integrated Provincial Health Office here, the province's malnutrition rate this year is 9.83%, a slight drop from the 11.8% in 2006.

Among the six municipalities, the town of Siquijor registered the highest malnutrition rate with 12.9%, followed by San Juan, with 12.2% and Maria, 9.19%.

The town with the lowest malnutrition rate is Enrique Villanueva, which took a big leap downward from its last year's rate of 13.9%, followed by Lazi with 7.49% from 9.12% last year and Larena, 8.23% from 10.11% last year.

Integrated Provincial Health Officer Dr. Nell Alcoran also said that although the province's malnutrition rate has slightly declined, the total rate is still a cause for concern.

She said that the Provincial Nutrition Committee has been carrying on with their regular nutritional programs such as supplemental feeding, provision of macronutrients, etc. "But it can only do so much. We really need the parents' cooperation, she stressed.

With this Provincial Governor Orlando A. Fua challenged all the health workers/providers and other concerned agencies to find effective strategy to alleviate the people of the province from malnutrition and hunger. He also encouraged parents to grow vegetable gardens in their backyards and to seek the assistance of the provincial government and the provincial agriculturist office. He said these people should be provided with seed supplies, be taught how to improve their yield and how to provide the needed nutrition for their family especially the children.

In the same development, the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), an attached-agency of the Department of Agriculture (DA) has encouraged households to practice backyard farming to support their daily needs in vegetables.

BPI officer-in-charge Joel S. Rudinas said that 766,863 households in the country have tapped the Programang Gulayan Para Sa Masa, adding that the responses from the localities are very "enthusiastic.

"By October this year, we hope to accomplish our target of 851,000 households. Our intention is to encourage households to setup their backyard gardens," Rudinas said. (PIA) [top]

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