The municipality of Viga and San Miguel have earned the unenviable achievement of having the highest percentage of stunting among pre-school children.
In the 2022 Operation Timbang Plus, it was learned that 22.3% of children 0-59 months old in Viga were either stunted or severely stunted, which is more than the national average of 21.6%.
The province’s rice granary was followed by the landlocked town of San Miguel, with 20.6%.
The two towns also led the other nine towns in the percentage of underweight and severely underweight children, with 12.6% and 11.5%, respectively.
To make it worse, San Miguel was also number one in the percentage of moderately and severely wasted children with 3.9%, with Viga just a shade below at 3.8%.
According to the data from the National Nutrition Council, the capital town of Virac took top honors in the percentage of overweight and obese kids, with 4.6%, with Bato at 4.0% and San Miguel and San Andres with identical 3.7%.
Overall, the OPT Plus in Catanduanes was able to measure only 64.4% of the estimated 33,791 pre-school children or 21,778.
Of those measures, 3,563 were considered stunted or severely stunted; 2,171 were underweight or severely underweight; and 547 were moderately or severely wasted.
In addition, 704 were measured to be overweight or obese, with nearly four out of every 10 of them from Virac.
But there is evidence that the government’s interventions are working, at least in the capital town.
Municipal Nutrition Action Officer Jocelyn Quinones, in her report to the Municipal Nutrition Council chairman, Mayor Samuel Laynes, stated that the incidence of severely stunted and stunted preschoolers fell from a high of 27.22% in 2016 to a more manageable 15.81% this year.
The percentage of wasted and severely wasted kids also decreased from 6.75% in 2016 to just 1.42% in 2023.
But not much headway was made in the campaign to reduce the number of underweight and severely underweight children in Virac, as the LGU managed to trim it from 12.46% in 2016 to just below 10% last year, only to see it rise to 10.06% in 2023.
The prevalence of children who are below their ideal weight, based on OPT Plus 2022, are highest in Dugui San Vicente (25.4%), Calabnigan (24%), Pajo San Isidro (21.05%), Hicming (19.23%), Constantino (19.09%), Dugui Too (17.12%), Tubaon (16.44%) and Capilihan (15.75%).
Stunting was highest in Dugui San Isidro, with 38.64% of the measured preschool children either stunted or severely stunted.
Making up the other nine barangays with high prevalence of stunting were Calabnigan (33%), Dugui San Vicente (31.75%), Dugui Too (31.51%), Constantino (28.57%), Hicming (27.88%), Salvacion (27.78%), Pajo San Isidro (25.56%), Balite (25.23%) and Sto. Domingo (25%).
Twenty-four (24) other villages in the first-class town also had stunting percentages greater than 15%, the same consolidated report stated.
On the other hand, the five barangays within the critical threshold for moderate and severe wasting among children were Hawan Ilaya (7.69%), Antipolo del Norte (5.56%), Salvacion (5.56%), Capilihan (5.51%), and Ibong Sapa (5%).
Twenty-three (23) barangays, most of them in the población, had obesity and overweight rates among children above 5%, led by San Jose, Sta. Elena, San Isidro Village, San Pedro, Salvacion and Francia.
MNAO Quinones told the Tribune that the Virac LGU’s 120-day supplemental feeding program is set to commence either this last week of June or the first week of July, depending on the delivery of the food items by the supplier.
In 2022, the feeding program was not 100% completed as the weather at times prevented center-based feeding conducted in one place, usually the barangay hall.
The food, which is usually added with micronutrient powder, were brought to individual households, where the nutrition workers would not be sure if the food was consumed by the child or shared with siblings.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) feeding program, on the other hand, is focused on kids enrolled in Day Care Centers.