Most children below 1-year old in poor, far-flung municipalities are suffering from anemia, the latest National Nutrition Survey (NNS) showed.
"The 2013 National Nutrition Survey reported a decreasing trend (of anemia), but there are still pockets where anemia is still prevalent, usually in 4th class municipalities," Dr. Mary Cristine Castro, executive director of the Nutrition Center of the Philippines, told ABS-CBN News in a phone interview.
Castro said anemia is the deficiency of a blood component that helps transport oxygen throughout the body.
"Mas madali silang hingalin, mapagod, kasi 'yung oxygen na dumadaloy sa katawan nila, inadequate," Castro said.
"Anemic people are also more prone to infections and severe anemia is a factor for maternal death," she added.
The NNS survey conducted in the municipalities of Looc, Romblon and Gamay, Northern Samar showed that 80 percent of children aged 6 to 11 months are anemic.
Most children in the two municipalities were anemic because 40 percent of pregnant respondents from the said towns were also suffering from iron deficiency, the study showed.
"We need to address problems of anemia among pregnant women because it produces inter-generational consequences," Castro said.
"If a woman is undernourished during her pregnancy, her offspring will most likely be undernourished too. Aside from stunting, the child will also grow to become an unhealthy adult and may produce unhealthy children," Castro added.
Some of the pregnant respondents who failed to receive free iron supplements from the government said they had no time to go to community health centers as these are located several kilometers from their homes.
Others said they had to attend to other matters such as going to work or tending to their families.
Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said the government is working to "bring health centers closer to the people."
"We are aiming to have more health centers with complete facilities in far-flung areas because even if we have enough supplements, it's useless if the people won't get them," Ubial told ABS-CBN News in a separate phone interview.
Ubial said the Health department has been pushing to have more "health investments" in the countryside in a bid to cut undernutrition numbers by half by 2022.
Castro said the government should also address food security as it is considered as the root cause of malnutrition.