DOH, NNC, KOICA, UNICEF STRENGTHEN NUTRITION DRIVE IN THE NEW NORMAL

Joint Press Release | 22 July 2022

Manila, Philippines – As the Philippines celebrates the 48th Nutrition Month, the Department of Health (DOH), National Nutrition Council (NNC), Embassy of the Republic of Korea in the Philippines through Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), and UNICEF Philippines jointly reaffirm their staunch collaboration and steadfast commitment towards strengthened nutrition interventions in the new normal.

Aligned with this year’s Nutrition Month theme, “New normal na nutrisyon, sama-samang gawan ng solusyon,” which highlights the importance of active participation among key stakeholders from the government, private sectors, and communities to scale up nutrition interventions, the four agencies underscore the urgency of ensuring priority actions to address malnutrition among Filipinos, especially children.

The proportion of infants and young children receiving a diversified diet in the country has been decreasing, as shown in the series of National Nutrition Surveys since 2003, and this situation is feared to have worsened during the pandemic. Substandard diets have always been a major contributor to the triple burden of malnutrition.

“The Department calls for heightened interventions to improve the food system that will provide increased access to diverse foods that are safe and nutritious, and consequently improve the children’s nutritional status. Moreover, as part of the Department’s goal of providing an all-encompassing healthcare service, it is important that we address and resolve these challenges so that we make sure that all children are given the adequate and proper nutrition that they deserve,” said Dr. Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire, DOH Officer- in-Charge.

According to the 2018 Expanded National Nutrition Survey (ENNS), 30.3 percent (about 3.9 million) of children under 5 years in the Philippines were stunted or too small for their age. There is also in increasing number of overweight and obese children at 10.4% and 11.6% respectively. Overweight and obesity are a public health concern as they have the potential to negate many of the health benefits that have contributed to increased life expectancy.

The NNC leads the charge to address malnutrition in the Philippines. With the Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition (PPAN) for 2023-2028 currently under development, its strategies will continue to prioritize the first 1000 days of life (from conception up to two years of life) and the mobilization of local government units (LGUs). LGUs are expected to formulate three-year local nutrition action plans that are aligned with the strategies encroached within PPAN.

“When we improve nutrition, we also build people’s resilience against disease, stresses, and shocks. This year’s Nutrition Month emphasizes that all of us need to work together to have better nutrition in the new normal,” said Assistant Secretary Azucena M. Dayanghirang, NNC Executive Director.

The Korean Government, through KOICA, has been a supportive donor and partner in the implementation of the Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition. Through the partnership between KOICA and UNICEF, milestones particularly in the areas of governance and policy, health, and nutrition service delivery, and social and behavior change communication have been achieved amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Korean Government, through KOICA, unites with the Philippine Government and UNICEF Philippines towards improving and scaling up nutrition in the new normal. KOICA will continuously provide support to the Philippine health sector,” said KOICA Country Director KIM Eunsub.

While the pandemic has made a huge impact on nutrition, it has also paved the way for innovations in nutrition service delivery, as well as strengthened multi-sectoral collaboration and increased awareness. UNICEF Philippines works at the national and sub-national levels to ensure that gaps in the access to and delivery of health, nutrition, and WASH services are addressed through evidence-based interventions.

“Despite the challenges of the pandemic, we were able to achieve key milestones through meaningful partnerships. As we strengthen localized nutrition policies and budgets, assuring nutrition services in hard- to-reach areas, and building capacity of frontline nutrition and healthcare providers, we must ensure that these achievements result in the sustained reduction of stunting and other forms of malnutrition in the Philippines,” said Behzad Noubary, UNICEF Philippines Deputy Representative.

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