MANILA, 29 December 2018 — The Department of Health (DOH), the National Nutrition Council (NNC) and its member agencies, and UN children’s agency UNICEF celebrated together the passage of the “Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Mag-Nanay Act," more popularly known as the First 1000 Days law.
President Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act 11148 last November 29. 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.
"This law will complement the much-awaited Universal Health Care Law to further boost the country’s health status on our way to make Filipinos the healthiest in Southeast Asia by 2022 and in Asia in 2040,” said Department of Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III.
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 have severe wasting—also known as severe acute malnutrition—have at least nine to 12 times increased risk of death.
In January of 2018, UNICEF, in partnership with the DOH and NNC, launched two costing studies that showed the impact of undernutrition to the national economy and how much investment we need to address this issue.
The first study, “The Economic Consequences of Undernutrition in the Philippines: A Damage Assessment Report (DAR),” shows that the Philippines is losing and will continue to lose around $4.5 billion per year if current rates of undernutrition are not addressed. In 2015, this loss was equivalent to around 1.5% of the country’s GDP, which has made a significant dent in the national economy.
The second study, “Business Case for Nutrition Investment in the Philippines,” shows how effective implementation of affordable and equity-focused nutrition interventions can significantly decrease the annual economic burden of undernutrition. It also presents that for every $1 invested to address undernutrition, there will be a $12 return to the overall economy.
“Good nutrition is the foundation of a child’s survival, health and development. We congratulate the Philippine Government for this huge achievement – for prioritizing interventions and investments for children and their mothers during their first 1000 days which is the best Christmas gift they can ever receive. UNICEF is committed to continue supporting the Government as it defines the package of interventions and accountabilities of all Government Agencies to operationalize and scale up effective nutrition services in the country. With this law, we hope that the much-needed investments for evidence-based interventions can finally move the needle towards taller, brighter, and healthier Filipino Children,” UNICEF Philippines Deputy Representative Julia Rees said.
UNICEF is committed to continue supporting the Government as it defines the package of interventions and accountabilities of all Government Agencies to operationalize and scale up effective nutrition services in the country. With this law, we hope that the much-needed investments for evidence-based interventions can finally move the needle towards taller, brighter, and healthier Filipino Children,” UNICEF Philippines Deputy Representative Julia Rees added.
With support from UNICEF, DOH and NNC advocated for the importance of the First 1000 days Window of Opportunity (a child’s life from conception up to two years old) since 2014. Through key partners like the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) and the Philippine Coalition of Advocates for Nutrition (PhilCAN), this advocacy prompted various Local Government Units to prioritize interventions and investments for the first 1000 days of a child’s life.
""Indeed, this is an early Christmas gift for our women and children. We thank our legislators and their staff who worked hard for the passage of the law. We thank President Rodrigo Roa Duterte for signing the bill into law as a manifestation of his love and caring for the Filipino child. We are confident that the law will trigger action from national government agencies, local governments, and non-government organizations to invest and scale up action for nutrition. The NNC and its national and local network will participate actively in formulating the IRR. We will also do aggressive public dissemination of the law and continue to forge strategic alliances and partnerships for concerted action for good nutrition in the first 1000 days. The Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Mag-Nanay Act promises to help not only the achievement of the targets of the Philippine Plan of Action on Nutrition 2017-2022 but also help in the attainment of each Filipino child’s potential for growth and development” said Assistant Secretary of Health and NNC Executive Director Maria-Bernardita Flores.
Over the next few weeks, DOH will convene relevant stakeholders in drafting the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 11148. This is a significant step forward that supports DOH’s Philippine Health Agenda, NNC’s Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition 2017-2022, and UNICEF’s essential interventions and strategies to improve Child Survival and Early Childhood Care and Development, all of which aim to end all forms of malnutrition and give every child the best start in life.