COVID-19 and children’s nutrition

Five year old LA is severely underweight for his age. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, his village has been working doubly hard to provide nutrition support for him and other children in their urban poor community.

Dess, a healthworker in LA’s barangay, says, “Through the local government, families with malnourished children are given meal coupons which they redeem for nutritious meals from a government-certified restaurant in the village. Barangay health workers like me are in-charge of monitoring the children’s status.”

Dess explains that LA has consistently shown improvement since he was enrolled in the program but she also fears that the gains they had could be reversed because of COVID-19.

Since the community quarantine was imposed, the feeding programs were temporarily stopped. Aside from the disruption of such services, the income of LA’s parents was also affected, limiting their capacity to provide for their children’s nutritional needs.

“It’s become harder for us when COVID-19 happened. My husband is a no-work-no-pay employee. Now we only rely on relief goods and help from our relatives,” Analyn, LA’s mother explains. Her husband paints houses for a living. He used to earn a minimum of USD10 each day but it’s been two months that he is without income.

“The feeding program of the barangay was very helpful to LA and my youngest child, Keefer. It would be a big support to us if the program resumes. It’s hard to provide nutritious meals for the children when we do not have income,” Analyn explains.

Combatting malnutrition amid COVID-19

LA is just one of the four million children below 5 years old in the Philippines who are malnourished* and unlikely to reach their full mental and physical potential. With the threat of COVID-19, the number could possibly increase.

To help respond to the needs of malnourished children, World Vision and the Department of Health partnered to provide at least 1,000 malnourished children with a box (contains 30 sachets) of multiple micronutrient powder (MNP).

MNP is a “power blend of vitamins and minerals, and safe and effective in reducing micronutrient malnutrition.” It is known to prevent micronutrient deficiencies like iron deficiency anemia (IDA) and vitamin A deficiency disorders (VADD) improve the body’s immune system and it also helps improve a child’s ability to learn and develop.

“This is a timely intervention as we prioritize the welfare of children during the COVID-19 pandemic. With parents’ loss of income, secondary impact of coronavirus disease like malnutrition will continue to haunt us. Malnutrition, as we already know, threatens the normal growth and development of children,” shares Rommel V. Fuerte, World Vision’s national director.

“Engagements with like-minded organizations such as Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. is also necessary to combat malnutrition. Through this partnership, World Vision is able to complement the MNP with fresh vegetables. To date, we have distributed over 33,800 kilograms of vegetables, reaching more than 15,000 families,” Fuerte adds.

“World Vision also reiterates the call of theNational Nutrition Cluster to all local governments to activate their respective local nutrition clusters which will provide nutrition in emergency service packages to affected population, and to monitor the implementation of EO51 or the Philippine Milk Code which prohibits the donation of breast milk substitute of any kind,” says Carleneth San Valentin, World Vision’s health and nutrition manager.

*Source: 2018 Fill the Nutrient Gap Philippines Report