THE Department of Health on Tuesday gathered more than 200 health workers at the Citystate Tower Hotel in Manila for the launch of a program to eradicate malnutrition particularly in areas hit by either conflict or natural disasters.
Health Assistant Secretary Maria Bernardita Flores said health workers are in the front-line of the government’s program to address malnutrition and should encourage breast feeding to prevent infant malnutrition.
The Philippines ranked ninth in the world with the highest number of children suffering from stunted growth. Flores said since 2013, at least 30 percent of children below 5-years-old had “stunted” growth.
Flores said stunting reflects an even serious problem than malnutrition. “It means that since inception, the unborn child is already suffering from malnutrition.”
She said health workers attending to mothers and children in evacuation centers should not accept infant formula as donation, instead encourage mothers to breastfeed their babies.
“Even wearing t-shirts of these milk brands and use of their giveaways are not allowed since it violates the Milk Code, or Executive Order 51, that promotes breastfeeding,” Flores said in an interview at the launch of “Conquer Malnutrition” held at Citystate Tower Hotel in Manila.
She said health workers should not allow nursing mothers in evacuation center and poverty-stricken areas to use infant formula donated by multinational milk companies.
She said besides lack of clean potable water in evacuation centers, the availability of infant formula discourages mothers to breastfeed their babies.
The health official said the 1,000 days to combat malnutrition project requires a total P800-million budget to cover 56 cities and towns with high rates of malnutrition.
The program will officially start in January 2016 with an initial allocation of P250 million.
She said the program is set to cover the whole province of Sulu where malnutrition incidence is highest.
“In order to make a dent in our nutrition situation, we must continue to do things that work,” said Flores, adding the need “to prioritize the first 1,000 days of life as the window of opportunity to improve the nutrition of the next generation children.”