The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Country Project for Children has reported that malnutrition is associated with more than half of all less than 5 years old children’s deaths worldwide. According to the report, undernourished children are more likely to die from common childhood ailments – some will survive but have recurring sicknesses and growth problems.
The Philippines is not spared in this global endemic nutrition problem. In fact, the 2008 National Nutrition Survey (NNS) conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST) revealed that among 0-5 year old children, three out of 10 are underweight and under-height.
DOST Secretary Mario Montejo said that the increasing number of malnourished children in the Philippines is associated to poor feeding practices due to mother’s lack of knowledge or awareness on proper nutrition and sanitation, lack of access to potable water and severe poverty. “This served as basis for DOST to embark on a project entitled Science and Technology-based Interventions to Address Malnutrition dubbed as Sulong Pinoy Program – aimed to reduce the prevalence of malnutrition among children not only in the cities but most especially in the remote and far flung communities in the provinces,” added Secretary Montejo.
“The program has three project components: production and technology transfer of the FNRI complementary snack foods; development of nutrition intervention strategy (DOST PINOY Model); and technology generation for the production of multi-nutrient growth mix,” said FNRI Director Dr. Mario Capanzana.
For the first component, the protein-rich food technologies developed by FNRI such as the Rice-Mongo blend, Rice-Mongo-Sesame, and Rice-Mongo Curls will be produced for the complementary feeding to address the nutrient deficiency among malnourished children. These technologies are also ready for commercialization to interested private entrepreneurs. The FNRI-DOST will provide technical assistance to Local Government Units (LGUs), Non Government Organizations (NGOs) and private organizations who are interested to produce these food products for livelihood purposes.
The second component of the program is the DOST PINOY Model, where PINOY stands for Package for the Improvement of Nutrition for Young Children. This component is a customized package of nutrition modules to empower the Barangays Health Workers (BHWs) and Barangay Nutrition Scholars (BNSs) in educating the mothers to practice breastfeeding and appropriate complementary feeding using the FNRI complementary food blends and snack foods.
“We feed the child simultaneously with their mother’s mind,” said Dr. Capanzana. “In this component, DOST will provide the supply of supplementary foods for 120-day feeding cycle to the initially identified 1000 (0-5) year old children from the nutritionally depressed communities of Iloilo, Leyte, Antique and Occidental Mindoro – the identified provinces with high prevalence of underweight children based on the 2008 National Nutrition Survey.”
The third component of the project is the undergoing R&D effort to fortify the food products (Rice-Mongo blend, Rice-Mongo-Sesame, and Rice-Mongo Curls) with Vitamin A, iron, iodine, zinc and folic acid. The project also aimed to produce a multi-nutrient growth mix using fruits and vegetables in a ready-to-use sachet that can be used to fortify the ordinary “lugaw” with vitamins and mineral and complement the protein and energy-dense blend formulation of the three introduced products as well.
“Along with the existing community-based nutrition education effort being implemented by various government agencies, non-government organizations and private organizations, malnutrition in the country would be lessened if not eliminated,” Dr. Capanzana added.
Sustainability of the Program
The program encourages strong participation of the community not only for beneficiaries but also the local chief executives, officials and nutrition committees through constant advocacy meeting. “With this, they will personally understand and become aware on the importance of the program, making them feel that this program is designed for them, for their community – for their own good,” said Dr. Capanzana.
On the other hand, aside from getting fresh and nutritious food alternatives in vegetable production or backyard gardening component of the project, it is also an opportunity for the community to earn money by selling their excess harvests. “With that, we can say that this program helps the community not only for what they need today but, most importantly, they will learn practical knowledge that will enable them to become productive and well-nourished citizens of the country,” concluded Dr. Capanzana.
The DOST Sulong PINOY Program is a monitored project of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD).(Edmon B. Agron)