There is one out of four children in Mindanao found to be underweight. This was based on thenutrition survey results presented during the recently concluded Online Technology Forum for Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) by the Department of Science and Technology – Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI).

The first 1,000 days of a child’s life, which begins in pregnancy, is critical because the damage is irreversible if the child does not get proper nutrition during this period, according to Lea B. Landicho, a science research analyst at DOST-FNRI.

The trends in the prevalence of malnutrition among children less than two years old or 0-23 months in the Philippines show a decline in four nutrition parameters between 2015 to 2019: underweight (from 17.2 to 13.9); stunting (25.7 to 21.9); wasting (10.2 to 7.0); and overweight (4.2 to 2.6). Despite the decline, however, underweight and stunting are still prevalent in most parts of Mindanao.

One out of four children, less than five years old, are underweight, which is a condition where children are found to weigh below the standard weight for the child’s age. Underweight prevalence generally increased except for Lanao del Sur.

For the same age group, four out of 10 are stunted.Stunting is based on height for-age index or when the height of a child is below the standard for the child’s age. Stunting reflects chronic undernutrition. It’s a manifestation of past nutritional status wherein there’s a prolonged inadequate intake, recurrence of illness or improper feeding practices. Stunting prevalence generally increased except for Tawi-Tawi.

Eight out of a hundredchildren, less than five years of age, are considered wasting or thin.Wasting or thinness is based on weight for-height index or it is a condition when a child’s weight is below the standard for the child’s height. Wasting generally decreased except for Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

On the other hand, four out of one hundred are overweight for their height among the less than five years old. 

DOST-FNRI has a Malnutrition Reduction Program (MRP) which addresses the undernutrition problem among young children in the country. MRP includes the DOST PINOY strategy, a package of interventionsinvolving direct feeding of rice-mongo based complementary foods for six months to below three years old children, and nutrition education among mothers and caregivers.This programhas been on the roll-out in the countryside. 

Alexis M. Ortiz, a research specialist at the technology transfer and commercialization section said that DOST-FNRI has activities and projects focusing on sharing the nutrition status with the end-users, so that they’ll be encouraged to take action.

“Yung Malnutrition Reduction Program, kung saan po nagkakaroon kami ng advocacy meetings or forum tungkolsamga issues para po ang atingmga local executives at ang mga members po ng councils ay ma-inform kung ano ang nutritional status ng kanilang area po, nangsagayon po, makagawa po ng aksyon kung saan doon natini-introduce yungmga complementary food tulad po ng rice monggo blend,” Ortiz explained.

Among these food technologies are complementary food, such as rice-monggo blend crunchies and curls for snacks and ready-to-eat food for infants and young children, and micronutrient growth mix. The ready-to-cook blend of rice, mungbean and sesame seeds contains 130 Kcal (energy) and fourgrams protein per 30 grams serving portion - enough to meet the 18 % of recommended energy and 28.6 % of recommended protein intake of 6-month to less than 10-month-old children.

DOST-FNRI also developed squash supplemented products, such as pancit canton and bakery products with squash, and also the fast-becoming popular enhanced nutribun.

(Geraldine Bulaon-Ducusin, DOST-STII,