Nutrition (4th from left) President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., with (from L to R) CSC Chair Karlo Nograles, NEDA Chief Arsenio Balisacan, DSWD Sec. Rex Gatchalian, DOH OIC Rosario Vergeire, BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim, and WB Country Director Ndiamé Diop during the launch of PMNP on Wednesday, March 29, 2023.

DSWD, DOH launch PMNP to solve undernutrition

March 31, 2023 Ryan Ponce Pacpaco 433 views

PRESIDENT Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr., together with Department of Social and Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Rex Gatchalian and Department of Health (DOH) Officer-in-Charge (OIC) Secretary Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire, led the launching of the “Philippine Multisectoral Nutrition Project” (PMNP) aimed at addressing child undernutrition and stunting in the Philippines, on Wednesday.

The PMNP is a four-year project, spearheaded by the DSWD and DOH, that will support the adoption of a multisectoral nutrition approach to deliver a package of nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions, together with social behavior change and communication strategy, across various platforms of local government units (LGUs) in the country.

The project aims to increase the utilization of a package of nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions, as well as to improve key behaviors and practices known to reduce stunting – the impaired growth and development that children experience from poor nutrition, in the target LGUs.

In his message, President Marcos Jr. expressed his support for the multisectoral approach of the program in addressing the “paramount” concern on malnutrition and hunger.

“It is important because such an approach is seen to be the effective method to deal with this multi-faceted problem, the benefits from which we will feel all the way from the very top of our society down to the grassroots level,” President Marcos Jr. said.

“As the country continues to face persistent threats of hunger and malnutrition, rest assured that this administration is working conscientiously to find effective and cross-cutting solutions to address these and other paramount social problems and concerns,” the President added.

‘Prevalence of Stunting’

According to the National Nutrition Survey 2019 Report, the prevalence of stunting among Filipino children below five years old ranges from 28.8% to 33.8%. This stage in those child’s life can lead to several consequences such as mortality from infections, developmental delays (cognitive, social and emotional, motor skills, speech and language), lack of physical stamina in later life, and increased likelihood of low economic productivity.

In 2016, a study by UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) revealed that malnutrition cost the country approximately US$ 4.5 billion or more than P240 billion annually, representing future economic losses resulting from child mortality, developmental delays in children, adult work deficits, and child morbidity.

“We know that healthy children are more likely to excel in school and become productive members of society, while undernourished children tend to struggle with illness, learning, and are more likely to drop out of school,” said DOH Acting Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.

“Improving the health and nutrition of all children, therefore, is essential to ensuring the success of future generations of Filipinos. To achieve this, we need greater coordination between local and national government units and the active participation of the private sector and civil society. Together, we can finally reduce undernutrition that afflicts many poor and vulnerable families,” Vergeire added.

‘Prioritizing community-based nutrition’

The primary beneficiaries of the PMNP are the households of the First 1,000 Days (F1KD) program in the targeted project sites. These households include pregnant and lactating women, children aged two to under five years with stunting, and adolescent girls.

The poorest households, as well as the indigenous peoples, will also benefit from improved nutrition-sensitive interventions, while the public at large will benefit from national media campaigns as well as health- and nutrition-related interventions.

“We are all aware that nutrition is a critical component of overall health and well-being, particularly for mothers and adolescents. We believe that through community-based nutrition service delivery, we can reach more people and make nutrition services available to those who may face barriers to accessing health care,” Gatchalian stated.

“Using the community-driven development approach, we put communities at the center of the decision-making process. Consequently, communities are empowered to identify their nutrition challenges and design culturally appropriate and responsive solutions to their specific needs. The PMNP aims to build communities’ capacities to address nutrition challenges sustainably in the long run,” Gatchalian further explained.

The PMNP is funded by the World Bank, which granted US$178.1 million or about a P9.7 billion loan to the Philippine government last year.

“The World Bank is fully committed to supporting the country’s goal to reduce the incidence of stunting among Filipino children,” Ndiamé Diop, World Bank Country Director for Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand, pointed out.

“Addressing undernutrition is critical to improving human capital, a central driver of sustainable growth and rapid poverty reduction,” Country Director Diop continued.

‘Target areas’

The PMNP will be implemented in 235 selected LGUs in 12 regions in the country with the highest burden of childhood stunting and undernutrition.

Participating municipalities will receive packages of support from PMNP in the form of Performance-Based Grants (PBG) for the LGU and input support packages such as Primary Health Care and Nutrition Commodities, Municipal Grant Allocation (MGA) for the covered communities/barangays of the LGU, 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 project will also cover additional forty municipalities from three provinces in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), identified as part of the priority areas of the Human Development and Poverty Reduction Cabinet Cluster (HDPRC) and Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition (PPAN).

The DSWD and DOH jointly called on the LGUs, private sector, and communities to actively participate in addressing the prevalence of childhood stunting and nutritional deficiencies.

The two agencies emphasized that improving nutrition among children and women has always been the priority in the overall PPAN and is now a priority under the Philippine Development Plan for 2023-2028.

‘Collab spell success of program vs malnutrition’

The Mayor’s Forum with local chief executives and other local officials seeking to enhance the implementation of the PMNP was successfully conducted on March 28 in Manila with local officials, health experts, and community leaders.

The forum sought to address the issue of malnutrition and other health-related concerns in the country through a collaborative effort that empowers communities to take ownership of their health and well-being through the implementation of the PMNP, a holistic project harmonizing the delivery of nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions to reduce stunting in targeted localities around the country.

The significant event, graced by Gatchalian, DOH OIC Secretary Vergeire, DILG Undersecretary Margarita Gutierrez, and representatives from the World Bank and UNICEF, highlighted the significant role of community participation in identifying and addressing the root causes of malnutrition, as well as in promoting healthy behaviors and practices. They all emphasized the importance of multi-stakeholder collaboration in tackling malnutrition.

It featured a series of talks and workshops by health experts and community leaders, which focused on various malnutrition prevention and management aspects. Participants engaged in interactive discussions on the importance of nutrition education, access to healthy food, and community-based initiatives to improve health outcomes.

DSWD Chief Gatchalian highlighted the importance of consultative and participative planning process. “We want to make sure that your voices are heard. We want to make sure that this is collaborative and consultative. Ito ho ‘yung magiging driving principle ng DSWD sa mga susunod na panahon sa tuwing maglalabas po kami ng mga programa” (This will be the driving principle of the DSWD in the future whenever we release programs),” Gatchalian said.

In addition, the forum showcased successful community-driven development initiatives from various municipalities in the country. These initiatives demonstrated how communities could actively promote healthy behaviors and practices and address social determinants of health that contribute to malnutrition.

The Mayor’s Forum generated a sense of enthusiasm and commitment among participants towards taking collective action to combat malnutrition in the country.

Participants expressed their commitment to working together towards implementing community-driven development initiatives that address the root causes of malnutrition, improve access to healthy food, and promote healthy lifestyles.

DSWD will serve as one of the co-implementers of the PMNP together with the DOH. Through the Kapit-Bisig Laban Sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (KALAHI-CIDSS) program, it will hold community-based nutrition service delivery and multisectoral nutrition convergence.

KALAHI-CIDSS utilizes the community-driven development (CDD) approach, which empowers community members to identify and prioritize their locality’s problems actively. The program also enables the locals to design, implement, and manage solutions to their priority problems, including answers to address health concerns such as stunting.

The forum’s success is a testament to the importance of community participation in addressing public health issues. It also highlights the significance of collaborative efforts in achieving sustainable and equitable development in the country.