Child's behavior revealed something about her nutrition

After participating in Pinoy Nutrition Hub for 90 days, Hannah noticed something different about her daughter Lyka.


It was an ordinary afternoon. Hannah, 37, busily prepared lunch for her children, chopping papaya on a plastic plate. A fish broth was already brewing. Hannah momentarily checked the pot, stirred and tasted the soup, and, satisfied with the taste, closed the lid again. 


The smell from the fish broth caught four-year-old Lyka's attention. "What's that?" she asked her mother who continued chopping the papaya. 


"I'm cooking fish," she replied. "Smells good?"


"Yes," Lyka said before returning to playing with her kitchen toy set. Imitating her mother, Lyka, put the plastic green fish in a small frying pan. The fish was too big for the pan but she didn't mind. She covered it with a small, yellow lid. After a few seconds, she opened the lid, put the fish on a plate and gave it to her friend, Dharica, 6, who was pretending to prepare juice in minute cups. Both girls were already lost in their small, imagined world, talking about buying from the market and selling juice to customers. 


"She used to be uninterested in playing with anyone or anything before," Hannah started. "I thought she was just shy. I didn't know her being 'shy' was a sign that her body lacked nutrients. She wasn't healthy.  I only learned later."


Lyka would usually just sit on their wooden bench and watched her mother go about the house, doing chores. The child wouldn't do much except tinkering with some things. She would eat the usual breakfast of bread and coffee but would not finish her meal. She did not have the appetite to eat. 


When her friends invite her to play, Lyka would either turn them down or, if she joined them, she would not do much and just watch the kids. "If she's an adult, she would be a boring companion," Hannah said. 


Hannah learns the truth


One day, Hannah decided to pay their health center a visit, which she seldom does due to the many chores she has to finish at home. That was when she found out that Lyka was malnourished. "They told me my daughter needed more food to become healthy," Hannah said. 


She initially thought that "more food" meant Lyka had to eat more than the usual quantity of food she had been taking. So, Hannah would cook food in large quantities and forced Lyka to eat more rice and soup. "I did it all wrong," she said. "I learned from PNH that children have small stomachs. They don't need to eat as much as adults. What they need are nutritious and varied food."


Pinoy Nutrition Hub (PNH) is World Vision's program to address malnutrition in communities. The program teaches participants on the needed nutrition of children below five years old. In PNH, parents and local health workers also learn about the long-term effects of malnutrition to children. 



Despite government efforts to solve malnutrition, a lot more still needs to be done. The 2015 report from the National Nutrition Council showed that Filipino children under five years old who are underweight increased from 21.2% in 2013 to 24.7% in 2015. The number of stunted children also increased from 32.7% in 2013 to 36.8% in 2015. A slight improvement was only recorded among children who are wasted or too thin for their height from 5.6% in 2013 to 4.9% in 2015. 


Alarmingly, the annual mortality rate of Filipino children under five was 30 to 33 per 1,000 live births between 2009 and 2013, the 2015 Global Nutrition Report, which measures progress in nutrition in different countries, showed.


Lyka gets better


Parents and health workers participating in PNH undergo basic nutrition training, cooking and hygienic food preparation. After a few weeks, the participants will continue what they learned at home. Health workers and World Vision staff usually conduct home visits to motivate parents to feed their children with nutritious food. 



Hannah followed what she learned from PHN for 90 days. On the 90th day, she returned Lyka to the health center to be checked. "I was happy when the health worker said Lyka is now healthier," Hannah said. 


Lyka is noticeably different. "She's playful now. She loves playing with neighbors. She would be up and about our backyard." Hannah said, adding that PNH had done big help to her and her daughter. "I thought feeding Lyka three times a day is enough. I learned our food should be nutritious. And I shouldn't give her coffee," Hannah laughed.—World Vision/July 27, 2016



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