‘LIVES CUT SHORT’ | More than 85 Filipino children die every day due to malnutrition, hunger

November 20, 2017 - 12:18 PM
Children run inside Holy Cross Memorial Park in Tacloban City. File photo by Bernard Testa, InterAksyon.

MANILA, Philippines — More than 85 children die in the Philippines every day because they are malnourished and hungry, according to international aid agency Save the Children, which recently released a report titled “Lives Cut Short”.

“We are talking here about over 31,000 child deaths in 2015 alone,” said Save the Children country director Ned Olney in a press release.

The study says that almost half, or 48 percent, of total child deaths in the Philippines for that year were connected to children being underweight. (31,813 out of 65,613 child deaths.) This, in turn, is caused by food insecurity and extreme hunger.

This is higher than the global average on child deaths related to undernutrition, which is 45 percent.

The rate has also increased since 2013, according to the UK-based non-government organization.

“Unless families get enough food and they are nourished, we will continue to lose more Filipino children, while those who have survived from being malnourished may never be able to reach their full potential,” Olney said.

The report also showed that children from urban areas below six months, who are living in moderately and severely food-insecure households, are four times more likely to be underweight than children from food-secure households.

Children from rural areas who experience severe household food insecurity are almost three times at higher risk of death.

Meanwhile, report noted that an inadequate number of meals per day is linked to stunting.

Stunting occurs when a child, from the time he or she is in the womb up to when he or she is two years old, is malnourished. Without the right nutrients, he or she cannot grow properly and can become too short for his or her age.

Save the Children previously reported that stunted children perform poorly in school, causing them to have fewer work opportunities later on. They also earn less than their health counterparts, trapping them in a cycle of poverty where their own children lack healthcare and access to proper nutrition.

“Lives Cut Short” notes that children six to 23 months old who are living in rural areas and are not able to achieve minimum meal frequency are twice as likely to be stunted, or short for their age.

Save the Children cited the minimum meal frequency standards as two meals for breastfed infants from six to eight months old; three meals for breastfed children from nine to 23 months old; and four meals for non-breastfed children from six to 23 months old.

“We know that children’s chance at a fair start in life starts in the womb. What the mother eats, or if she eats at all, ultimately affects a child’s future in the long term. We need to ensure that mothers and their babies are given the best care right in their homes, and in their communities,” Olney stressed.

Maternal health factors are also significantly associated with child mortality.

According to Save the Children, the following are linked to deaths among children less than six months old, and living in rural areas:

– preterm birth
– maternal age below 20 years old and between 40 to 49 years old
– two to three pregnancies in the past
– previous child deaths
– birth interval of less than two years.

The following are linked to deaths among children less than six months old, and living in urban areas:

– preterm birth
– maternal age below 20 years old
– four or more pregnancies in the past

Preterm birth is linked to deaths among children from six to 59 months old (about five years old) living in rural and urban areas.

What are the causes of preterm labor? “Lives Cut Short” lists them as infections, multiple pregnancies, teenage pregnancies, maternal health conditions, and mothers’ nutrition status.

“Measures to address these problems should therefore be focused on women in the reproductive age,” the report says. “Quality pre-pregnancy programs, such as adolescent sexual and reproductive health, and antenatal care are among the key interventions in preventing newborn deaths due to complications of prematurity, including stillborn.”

Save the Children is urging Congress to pass the “First 1,000 Days” bill, also known as the “Healthy Nanay, Healthy Bulilit Bill”, and “ensure sufficient budgetary allocation so that mothers and children are provided with quality pre- and post-natal care, essential early newborn care, micronutrient supplementation, and nutrition services from conception up to child’s second birthday.”

The organization urges the public to show their support and make a stand for children by signing Save the Children’s #StartThemHealthy petition at scp.ph/StartThemHealthy.