Philippines economic loss from children under nutrition
Widespread child under-nutrition causes the Philippines an annual loss of more than USD 4 bn, according to a new UNICEF report. The report, entitled Economic Consequences of Undernutrition in the Philippines , was prepared in conjunction with the Department of Health, the National Nutrition Council (NNC), and the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development.
The report said that while the Philippines has among the highest economic growth rates in Southeast Asia, “the nation’s nutrition indicators continue to lag behind most countries in the region, creating a drain of about USD 4.5 billion per year from the national economy.” In addition, UNICEF Nutrition Specialist Joris van Hees said that over 29,000 Filipino children under 5 die each year due to undernutrition. NNC Executive Director Maria-Bernardita Flores told that an estimated USD 100 million yearly is needed for very key interventions, especially during a child’s first 1,000 days. According to the report, benefit-cost ratios indicate that for every USD 1 investment to address undernutrition, there is a return of USD 12.
“Why is it so difficult for Congress and Senate to say we’re going to invest USD 1 to get USD 12 back? Because that’s really the return of this investment”
Lotta Sylwander, UNICEF Philippines Country Representative
— Rappler (@rapplerdotcom) January 23, 2018
Lotta Sylwander, UNICEF Philippines Country Representative during the presentation of the report asked “Why is it that it seems that malnutrition in the Philippines is a sort of hidden issue that is not dealt with properly?” and she added: “nutrition is not yet a priority [for the Government], but here are actually several bills around the [first] 1,000 days where nutrition really feature as a main issue, so there seems to be an increasing interest”.
She said politicians should look at the report on the costs of undernutrition and “be bothered…be concerned of the massive losses of money, of capacity, of moving the country forward.” After all, she said, “it’s in their power to do something.”
NNC Executive Director Maria-Bernardita Flores also believes the report is a “very important tool” to convince policymakers in so far as budget allocation for nutrition is concerned. “We know what to do, we have the interventions, we have designed them, we know that they are going to be very effective, but we lack the scale, we don’t get to reach 90 per cent of the individuals or people who are affected, and therefore we cannot really go beyond the normal coverage,” she explained.
“The passage of the First 1,000 Days [Bill] in the House of Representatives shows that nutrition is deemed as a priority. But the challenge is to make sure the law, when enacted, will have sufficient budget allocation”
Jocelyn Limkaichong, Negros Oriental 1st District Representative