MANILA- The Philippine economy is losing at least P328 billion a year due to malnutrition among children, which impacts workforce productivity, a report said.
“Cost of Hunger: Philippines” published by Save the Children reveals that childhood stunting - one of the most common forms of malnutrition - has permanent effects on a person’s growth which makes them drop out of school earlier and less productive than other workers when they start working.
“If you have a lot of stunted children who are going into the workforce, what does that mean [for] national productivity?” said Ned Olney, country director of Save the Children Philippines.
The report reveals that there is P166.5 billion worth of lost income as a result of lower level of education achieved by workers who experienced childhood stunting; P160 billion in lost productivity due to premature deaths among children who could have joined the workforce later on; and P1.23 billion in additional education expenses for grade repetitions linked to undernutrition.
Olney added that around 2.7 million children in the country miss at least one meal daily due to poverty and around 52 percent of the country’s workforce (15-65 years old) are stunted.
Asked whether the problem could also be anchored on the food choices that families make, Olney explained that “dramatic poverty” has hindered poor families from buying nutritious food.
“If you don’t put money on people’s pockets they can’t have money to access food,” he said.
To address the problem, Olney is calling for support to the “First 1000 Days Bill” to help babies in their first 1000 days have access to better nutrition.
He also highlighted the importance of sanitation and clean water in communities and called on local government units to provide better programs for pre-natal care.