CALOOCAN CITY, July 2 (PIA) – One out of three Filipino children under five year old are stunted or short for their age or “bansot” in Filipino term.
This was revealed by National Nutrition Council (NNC) Executive Director Azucena Dayang Hirang on Wednesday’s Laging Handa public briefing. The data came from a survey of NNC, she said.
Thus, the 46th National Nutrition Month being celebrated this July, with the theme “Batang Pinoy, SANA TALL… Iwas stunting, SAMA ALL!. Iwas ALL din sa COVID-19” calls on everyone to join in a concerted efforts to address child stunting.
The theme expresses the aspiration of every Filipino family to have children that will be able to achieve their fullest potential in all aspects.
It is also a call to ensure good nutrition among Filipinos amid COVID pandemic being experienced today to improve resilience against the disease and avoid the long-term effects of malnutrition.
The theme is also a reminder to strictly adhere to the health and safety protocols set by Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging and Infectious Diseases to prevent COVID-19 transmission.
Dayang Hirang said, children are considered stunted if they do not reach the standard height of 110 cm for boys and 109 cm for girls or 3 ft and 6 inches at five years of age.
She emphasized that a stunted child at age five might not be able to recover from their developmental deficiencies, adding that “a stunted child has also a stunted or underdeveloped brain.”
Dayang Hirang also belied the notion that a child inherits the height of his parents. She explained that the genes of the parents have a very small effect on the child’s physical development.
“Children can become tall with proper nutrition and care from time of conception until the child reaches the age of five. Exclusive breastfeeding from zero age to six months is a must because breastmilk has all the nutrients the child needs. Nutritious solid food especially those rich in protein can then be given after six months,” Dayanghirang said.
“A monthly visit to the health center from zero age to two years old is recommended to monitor the height and weight of the child so that proper nutrition interventions can be immediately done to prevent further deficiencies,” she added.
Dayang Hirang said that the government implementing proper services as stated in the Republic Act 11148 or First 1000 Days Law or “Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Mag-Nanay Act,” signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on November 29, 2018.
The law seeks to scale up the national and local health and nutrition programs through a strengthened integrated strategy for maternal, neonatal, child health and nutrition in the first 1,000 days of life.
NNC said that malnutrition remains a significant public health concern in the Philippines with an estimated 4.2 million children who are stunted (short for their age) and more than 300,000 children under 5 years who are severely wasted (thin for their height).
Children who are stunted have life-long damaging consequences on their cognitive and intellectual capacities. On the other hand, children who are severely wasted have at least nine to 12 times increased risk of death.
Based on the World Health Organization (WHO) cut-off points, stunting among children below five years of age is considered high in magnitude and severity. The Philippines ranks fifth among countries in the East Asia and Pacific Region with the highest stunting prevalence and one of 10 countries with the highest number of stunted children in the world.
The WHO Child Growth Standards also states that the median height for boys at age 5 is 110 cm, while for girls is 109.4 cm. There is moderate to severe stunting for girls at age 5 when their height is between 99.9 cm to 95.2 cm. Severe stunting occurs if the height is below 95.2 cm. For boys, moderate stunting occurs when their height at age 5 is between 100.7 to 96.1 cm. Height less than 96.1 cm. indicates severe stunting for boys. (PIA-NCR)