Therapeutic food now available for severely malnourished kids

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 09 2017 01:56 AM

Felicita Borata, right, nutritionist and dietitian from the Department of Health Region 8, and UNICEF’s Alvin Manalansan inspect Ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) procured by DOH through UNICEF at a DOH warehouse in Palo, Leyte. Handout

The Department of Health (DOH) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) are teaming up to save children with severe acute malnutrition (SAM) by sending in nutrition supplies.

Ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) are being delivered to priority provinces to treat up to 50,000 severely malnourished kids.

The supplies came from UNICEF's global network.

"It is important that these RUTF and other nutrition-related commodities reach infants and young children who have severe acute malnutrition. We cannot afford to lose the lives of these children. We need everybody's cooperation and support especially from our local chief executives to achieve our Philippine Health Agenda and Zero SAM. Let us make it happen for our children," Health Secretary Dr. Paulyn Ubial said in a statement.

Malnutrition, according to the DOH, remains a significant public health concern in the country, with 3.4 million children who are stunted or short for their age, and more than 300,000 children below the age of 5 who are severely wasted, or thin for their height.

These malnourished children are concentrated in Region IV-B (MIMAROPA), Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Eastern Visayas and Bicol.

Children who have severe wasting, or severe acute malnutrition, are 9 to 12 times at risk of dying. It continues to be a serious child health problem especially in a highly disaster-prone country like the Philippines.

Data from the 2016 Global Nutrition Report identified the Philippines as one of the top 40 countries in the world with the highest prevalence of wasting at 7.9 percent.

UNICEF Global Nutrition Database also ranks the Philippines 10th in the world with the highest number of children younger than 5 years old who are moderately or severely wasted.

The risk of wasting increased in the aftermath of emergencies.

"Good nutrition is the foundation of a child's survival, health and development. Identifying severely malnourished children early, feeding them therapeutic food and giving them routine medications before any complications develop are key to saving their lives," UNICEF Philippines deputy representative Julia Rees said.

With help from UNICEF, DOH launched SAM management services in 17 initial provinces in 2016, which includes development of standard training modules on the management of SAM.

DOH, for the first time, was also able to procure RUTF, therapeutic milk and other essential commodities. The supplies are enough for an estimated 50,000 severely malnourished children with additional stocks prepositioned for emergency situations.

Both UNICEF and DOH emphasizes the importance of the first 1,000 days of life, which hopes to end malnutrition and give every child the best start in life.