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The Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF) held a forum titled "Responsive Nutrition Leadership and Governance for Faster Improvement of Nutrition Outcomes" on May 21, 2024, in Cebu City. The event provided as a platform to highlight ZFF's local partners' efforts to address the critical issue of malnutrition among Filipino children.

According to the 2021 Expanded National Nutrition Survey (ENNS), a staggering 26.7% of Filipino children under the age of five suffer from stunting, marking a significant public health concern as per the World Health Organization (WHO) standards.

Nutrition expert Ms. Cecilia Acuin emphasized the importance of a child's first 1,000 days, stating that this time period has a significant impact on their growth trajectory, academic performance, and future employment chances.

In 2022, the Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF) spearheaded the Municipal Nutrition Governance Program (MNGP) that benefited the communities of Pilar, Burgos, and Santa Monica. This comprehensive campaign intended to improve the capability of local government units (LGUs) in pregnancy monitoring, prenatal care provision, immunization programs, and other critical nutrition-focused projects.

The Alumni Association of AIM, Inc. (AAAIM) partnered with the ZFF to train local officials and personnel in developing systems and strategies to reduce stunting and wasting prevalence in said municipalities through the Ahon-Siargao CAPE Program. The Ahon-Siargao Capacity Enhancement (CAPE) Program, led by AAAIM and a consortium of private organizations and civil society groups, was implemented with the goal of enhancing the nutritional status and outcomes of pregnant women and children under 2 years old in the targeted municipalities.

AAAIM Chairman Tiukinhoy shared "Our projects in Burgos, Siargao are very focused on children. The First 1000 Days approach is the best strategy to address malnutrition. Experts term it as the "golden window of opportunity for the child to achieve his or her full potential in the different aspects of development" (quote, unquote). It is our hope that the local government units will strengthen the delivery of health and nutrition services in their respective areas. Encouraging the mothers to be more conscious of the importance of good nutrition while the baby is in the womb until they grow up to their formative years will reduce incidents of malnutrition, stunting and wasting. Our country is rated poor in addressing malnutrition. A report from UNICEF says that “Everyday 95 children in the Philippines die from malnutrition. 27 out of 1,000 Filipino children do not get past their fifth birthday. A third of Filipino children are stunted, or short for their age. Stunting after 2 years of age can be permanent, irreversible, and even fatal". Are we not alarmed by this report? I am. Together with the members of the Alumni Association of AIM, Inc. (AAAIM), we fully support the Zuellig Family Foundation's thrust in moving around the country to train local chief executives in health and nutrition governance. The local government units must prioritize allotting budgets for health and nutrition. Each Barangay must have its Barangay Nutrition Action Plan. Each child must be accorded the necessary attention and importance."

The initiative underlined the significance of prioritizing the 8 Critical Knobs of Nutrition Governance, drawing on insights gained from previous City and Municipal Nutrition Governance Program implementations. These coordinated initiatives have considerably strengthened the nutrition system, resulting in tangible progress in addressing concerns such as stunting and wasting among children aged 0 to 2 years.

As the forum concluded, a call to action resonated: sustained capacity building on nutrition governance, scaling up integrated delivery of programs, expanding and supporting the capacities of Barangay Health Workers (BHWs) and Barangay Nutrition Scholars (BNSs), and adopting supportive policies. These efforts underscore the collective determination to combat malnutrition and ensure that children have access to the nutrition they need to thrive.

In the face of these complex challenges, there is optimism that concerted efforts and collaborative action will continue to drive progress, leading to a decline in teenage pregnancy rates and improved outcomes for Filipino children across the nation.



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