DID YOU know that July is Nutrition Month? It is by virtue of Presidential Decree 491 issued in 1974 to create greater awareness on the importance of nutrition among Filipinos.
The 2020 Nutrition Month theme is “Batang Pinoy, Sana Tall…Iwas Stunting. Sam All! Iwas All din sa COVID-19!” It is a call for a collective vision of having taller Filipino children by preventing stunting through the participation of government, non-government organizations, civil society, business, academe, communities and families.
Actually, it all boils down to good nutrition. Nutrition Month stresses the importance of providing good nutrition to children not only to ensure optimal growth but also to mitigate the effects of undernutrition on our economy.
One of the urgent problems the government must attend to is undernutrition and stunting. The UNICEF, Department of Health (DOH) and the National Nutrition Council (NNC) released a study three years ago on “The Economic Consequences of Undernutrition in the Philippines.” According to this study, over 28 million children suffer from undernutrition.
Undernutrition is the direct or indirect cause of almost half of child deaths. Over 29,000 Filipino children below five die each year due to undernutrition.
Undernutrition not only affects children’s physical growth, it also diminishes their learning capacity and school performance. Later in life as adults and professionals, they have lower productivity and reduced earnings by half.
This is alarming for both our children and our society as a whole. According to the report, the Philippines is losing and will continue to lose around $4.5 billion per year if current rates of undernutrition are not mitigated. In 2015, this loss was estimated at around P220 billion or equivalent to 1.5 percent of the country’s GDP.
This should compel us to work even harder, together, across all sectors of society, to mitigate this problem. It is high time that we start investing in our biggest, most important resource — the Filipino people, particularly our children.