Despite being least poor among 6 provinces:

Catanduanes leads Bicol region in stunted, underweight children

For a province with the least number of poor families in Bicol, Catanduanes’ leading the region in terms of malnourished children has resulted in its inclusion in the four-year Philippine Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Project (PMNP).

MALNOURISHED CHILDREN 0-59 MONTHS OLD will be the target of Virac LGU’s supplemental feeding program that would begin either this last week of June or first week of July, following the conduct of Operation Timbang (OPT) Plus this first quarter of 2023. Virac Nutrition Office

During the recent Media Forum, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Regional Director Normal Laurio and his staff disclosed that while Catanduanes is the 6th poorest province in Bicol, it has been lumped with Camarines Sur, Masbate and Sorsogon as among the 253 local government units in 12 regions with the highest percentage of childhood stunting.

The target LGUs were selected based on the following criteria: with stunting rate higher than 17.5%; with high incidence of poverty; with experience in implementing DSWD’s Kalahi-CIDDS projects; and covered by the Human Development and Poverty Reduction Cabinet Cluster priority areas.

A check of the 2022 Operation Timbang Plus Report on Weight-for-Age among 0-59 months old showed that 10% of the children weighed were either underweight or severely underweight.

The percentages for the other five provinces for the same year were 7.3% for Masbate, 6.7% for Camarines Sur, 6.1% for Sorsogon, 5.5% for Camarines Norte and 3.1% for Albay.

Catanduanes also leads the region in terms of stunting, with 16.4% of those measured or a considerable 3,563 children 0-59 months of age too short for their age.

It is followed by Camarines Sur (14.2%), Masbate (12.8%), Camarines Norte (12.2%), Sorsogon (11.2%), and Albay (7.2%).

However, the island province fared better in the category for moderately or severely wasted children, with 2.5%.

Masbate took the dubious top honor with 3.7%, followed by Sorsogon (3.4%), Camarines Norte (2.8%), Albay (2.0%) and Camarines Norte (1.4%).

The Happy Island also had 3.2% of children aged 0-59 months who were either overweight or obese in 2022, tied for 2nd with Camarines Sur and just behind Sorsogon’s 4.2%. Masbate was at 2.8%, withy Albay and Camarines Norte with identical 2.5%.

According to the World Health Organization, low weight-for-height is known as wasting, with a young child who is moderately or severely wasted having an increased risk of death, but treatment is possible.

On the other hand, low height-for-age is known as stunting, which results from chronic or recurrent undernutrition, usually associated with poor socioeconomic conditions, poor maternal health and nutrition, frequent illness, and/or inappropriate infant and young child feeding and care in early life. Stunting holds children back from reaching their physical and cognitive potential, the WHO states.

Children with low weight-for-age are considered underweight. A child who is underweight may be stunted, wasted, or both, it adds.

Nationwide, at least 21.6% of infants and toddlers nationwide are stunted, with 12.3% of children aged zero to 23 months are underweight while 7.2% of them are wasted, the Department of Health recently reported.

One out of 10 school-aged children nationwide are overweight, while one out of 10 adolescents are overweight, the same report said.

According to the DSWD-5 report, there has been a slow pace of reduction in malnutrition issues in the country, mainly due to the fragmented action of the government from the national to the barangay level.

Following a orientation on the PMNP last February, LGUs in Catanduanes signed letters of intent to join the program and subsequently inked separate agreements with DSWD and DOH covering the program’s implementation.

Officially launched last March 2023, the PMNP seeks to deliver a coordinated package of nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions across the various LGU platforms together with a harmonized social behavior change and communication strategy.

The primary target are the so-called First 1,000 Day (F1KD) households in the target project sites: households with pregnant and lactating women; households with stunted children; children 2 years to below 5 years; and adolescent girls.

Participating municipalities will receive packages of support from PMNP in the form of Performance-Based Grants (PBG) for the LGU, Primary Health Care and Nutrition Commodities and Municipal Grant Allocation (MGA) for covered barangays.

Also included are Capacity Building and Technical Assistance packages, support for Social and Behavioral Change Communication strategies and approaches, and support for the development of harmonized information system.

The DSWD said LGUs can propose for PBG financing the following projects: Child Growth Monitoring, Nutrition in Emergencies, Safe Motherhood and Newborn Care Services, and Micronutrient Supplementation.

On the other hand, barangays granted the MGA can use the funding for subprojects such as digging of small community wells, maintenance of water sources, construction of community toilets, provision of learning materials on nutrition, provision of technical support for the integration of nutrition-focused child development activities, and minor civil works for day care centers.

Participating LGUs, however, would have to put up a counterpart equivalent to 15% of the MGA.

It can be in the form of either cash or in kind, including honoraria for volunteers, travelling expenses of local participants, expenses for meals and snacks, cost of events and other related expenses.

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