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Home Healthy Living Food and Nutrition Malnutrition in the Philippines

Malnutrition in the Philippines

The number of underweight Filipino children rose over the past four years, because of the food price spikes in 2008 that reduced the ability of poor Filipinos to buy food, according to the Food and Nutrition Rearch Institute (FNRI).

Dr. Mario Capanzana, director of FNRI, said that from 2005 to 2008, "there was a significant increase in the proportion of children aged 0 to 5 years who were underweight, from 24.6 percent to 26.2 percent."

The percentage of underheight children below five years also went up from 26.3 percent to 27.9 percent during the 2005-2008 period.

Capanzana said that this means that around 3.3 million Filipino children with ages below five years were underweight, or those who did not receive proper nutrition as of last year.  This was up from about 3 million in 2005.  The number of underheight children were placed at 3.5 million.

"In every 100 pre-school chidren, 26 were underweight, about 28 were underheight and 6 were thin," results of the 2008 National Nutrition Survey showed.

Corazon Cerdena, chief science research specialist at the Science and Technology Department, said regions with suffered the highest prevalence of underweight children were Mimaropa (Mindoro-Marinduque-Romblon-Palawan), Bicol region, and Eastern Visayas.

"There is a need to refocus the government's intervention towards these sites of nutritional disorders," Capanzana said.

Capanzana observed that undernutrition is more prevalent in groups and areas with lower income.

At the same time, the survey found that two in every 100 children in this age range were overweight for their age and 3 were overweight for their heights.

In explaining the reason for the increase in underweight children, Capanzana said the rice crisis and the typhoons might be the contributing factors.

He noted that the survey, which had 36,634 households or 191,316 individuals as respondents, was conducted in April 2008, when rice prices increased significantly from the previous year, because of the shortage in supply and high commodity prices in the world market.

The previous survey was conducted in 2005, which updated the 2003 figures.  The national nutrition survey is conducted every five years, although it is updated occasionally.

Capanzana said that with the release of the latest figure, the Philippines might not be able to achieve its Millennium Development Goal of halving the percentage of underweight children from 34 percent in 1990 to 17 percent by 2015.

"Most likely we are not going to achieve it," he said, adding that efforts by the government should pick up.  "There must be an annual reduction of 1.27 percent in the percentage of underweight children until 2015," he added.

The same survey showed that 25.6 percent of children aged 6 to 10 years old were overweight and 33.1 percent were underheight as of 2008, up from 22.8 percent underweight and 32.0 percent underheight children in 2005.

Obesity is becoming more of a problem for older individuals.  In older age groups, the study found that in every 100 adolescents aged 11 to 19 years, about 17 were underweight and 5 were overweight in 2008.

"Overweight adolescents had doubled since 1993 and the average change in the prevalence registered at 0.15 percentage point per year in the past 15 years," it said.

Of every 100 adults or 20 years and older, only 12 were chronic energy deficient while 27 were overweight.  "Over the years, the prevalence of chronic energy deficient individuals has been gradually decreasing at about 0.15 percentage point per year while overweight has been climbing at the average rate of 0.67 percentage point per year," the survey said.

Meanwhile, the survey also showed that 26.3 percent or one in every four Filipino pregnant women was nutritionally at risk, up from just 28.4 percent in 2005.

"The government's target which is the reduction to 20.9 percent of nutritionally at risk pregnant women by 2010 may not be likely achieved," the FNRI said.


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Last Updated (Wednesday, 03 February 2010 02:38)