Higher food stuffs leading cause of malnutrition in RP-Lacson

April 26, 2010

Malnutrition is rising among the country’s 40 million Filipinos living below the poverty threshold and if government fails to address this, there will surely be a massive impact on the condition of the poor as well as rural communities, warns Liberal Party senatorial candidate Atty. Alex ‘Pinoy’ Lacson.

Lacson said it has reached his attention that families living in depressed rural and urban poor communities are beginning to show signs of rising malnutrition and undernutrition incidences. A UNICEF report shows that 3 million Filipino kids are now suffering from stunted growth due to extreme malnutrition. Lacson blames the lack of access to adequate and nutritious food as the main cause of malnutrition not just in children but in adults as well.

A report from the Council of Health and Development revealed that lack of availability of food is the primary reason for widespread malnutrition in RP. An estimated 42 million Filipinos are unable to satisfy their daily nutritional requirements because of inability to buy essential food stuffs, like iron fortified rice, iodized salt, sugar and essential vegetables and viands. Food prices have increased by 15% in the past two months.

“Ordinary Filipinos are not getting the proper nutrients needed in their daily diet because of extreme poverty. Prices of food stuffs have risen exponentially over the past two months and with farm productivity at its very lowest, ordinary Filipinos especially those living in depressed rural communities are the worst hit by malnutrition.

“Government should immediately address this problem by first asking the DTI to strictly monitor the prices of basic commodities. Food prices have increased by at least 15% over the past few months and with the recent oil price hikes and natural disasters like El Nino, I fear that we haven’t seen the worst yet. If more government intervention is needed just as an emergency measure, then government should push the button. People’s lives are being affected and kids are slowly dying from hunger.”

Lacson says that one of 3 Filipino kids from zero to five years old suffer from stunted growth because pregnant and nursing Filipino mothers are themselves malnourished and undernourished. The report also shows that most of those victimized by malnutrition are those living in depressed rural communities, who do not receive quality prenatal care services and with poor feeding practices.

Poor and under-quality feeding practices directly affect the health of Filipino kids. Lacson cites another UNICEF and Micronutrient Initiative report which says that 4,000 kids die every year due to vitamin A deficiencies. Two out of three who survive, Lacson adds, suffer from lowered immunity, frequent ill health and stunted growth.

Worse, only 44.5% of Filipino households have access to iodized salt. More than half of Filipino households do not meet their daily iodine requirements, while a UNICEF report shows that 10,000 babies die every year due to anemia. This is alarming, says Lacson, since it means that children living in these households are potentially exposed to mental and physical retardation.

It has been shown that lack of iodine decreases IQ by 13.5% on average and on worst cases, iodine deficient pregnant women risk losing their babies.

“We cannot boast that we have a strong economy, while malnutrition incidence remains widespread. Growth and development should be measured by how ordinary people are fed and taken care of. Malnutrition remains very high, even comparable with that of Somalia in sub-Saharan Africa, for the last 15 years. We need to seriously review our food security and health care programs and adjust it based on prevailing conditions. Otherwise, we cannot claim to have achieved economic growth if poor families continue to suffer from extreme malnutrition.”

Lacson says that if elected in the Senate, he would focus on laws that will strengthen food security and food access for the people. He will also ask the DTI, DSWD and DECS to review their present feeding and immediately re-focus their efforts at combatting malnutrition, from depressed urban communities to rural areas, where care and attention are most needed.

“Food access is a non-negotiable issue. Food should reach the remotest and most depressed households in the country, especially families living in Mindanao, Samar, Negros and Cagayan. Government should ensure that essential food stuffs, like iron-fortified rice and iodized salt, reach the homes of the poorest of the poor around us.”