Angel recovers from malnutrition

Two-year-old Angel was underweight at 6.3 kilos, a sign of malnutrition. Her mother, Daisy, 26, thought it was normal for children like Angel to be a little light because they are still young.

“When the health workers told me that Angel was malnourished, I was worried. I was told to attend a nutrition class for a week,” Daisy shares.

In the Philippines, one in three children under five years old are stunted, which means they are too short for their age, while roughly 7 per cent of children are too thin for their height, a 2019 UNICEF study entitled “The State of the World’s Children: Children, Food and Nutrition” revealed.

Daisy attended nutrition classes for caregivers of children with malnutrition problem. The class, called Positive Deviance Hearth (PDH), aims to rehabilitate malnourished children by changing the caregiver’s feeding and hygiene habits towards children, especially those below 5 years of age.

“There were lessons on being clean, cooking and how to care for your child,” Daisy recalls. “The exciting part there was cooking. We cooked different meals every day. And the ingredients can be bought from our local market, not from a grocery store.”

The PDH session is conducted by health workers trained under the Roots to Shoots, a three-year program aimed at improving the nutrition and food security status of undernourished communities in Camarines Sur through various community activities such as PDH, vegetable farming and construction or repair of WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) facilities.

After the PDH classes, health workers would visit the child caregivers for weeks to help them practice the new positive behavior they just learned from their nutrition classes. After 90 days, Daisy noticed that Angel gained weight.

“She’s now 8.9 kilos!” Daisy says, adding that Angel is heavier now when lifted. “And she’s become giggly and lively except when we go to the health center. She doesn’t like being weighted.”

The health workers, who were chatting outside heard this and laugh. “Most kids don’t like us,” they say, jesting.

Now on its second year, Roots to Shoots program has provided more than 1,700 households with nutrition and health orientation and intervention, 600 individuals were given assistance on vegetable farming, and 7,000 individuals are now benefiting from several WASH facilities established in two villages in Camarines Sur.

Roots to Shoots is implemented by Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Manila Water and World Vision.