The healthiest graduation ceremony
By Mong Jimenez, World Vision
In the Philippines, graduation season usually falls on March and April. But in the small town of Palanas in southern Cebu, 17 toddlers just recently marched and received their diploma. Find out what these healthy and adorable children are celebrating in the middle of July.
Cebu, Philippines – Anabella, 35 years old and a mother, picked the whitest shirt for her son, Zian. She wanted to make sure that her 4-year-old boy would look good on his special day. They were going to attend the graduation ceremony of a nutrition program Zian has been joining for the past three months.
Zian was sickly before he enrolled in the nutrition class. Anabella described that her son was prone to colds and skin rashes. She also observed that he did not have much appetite for food.
Malnutrition remains one of the pressing issues among children in the Philippines. But these recent years, it has spiked to depressing measures. New studies found out that 1 in 3 Filipino children below 5 years old is malnourished.
Zian’s community is not spared from this concern. The little boy, along with 51 other kids aged 5 years old and below, were identified as malnourished in their barangay. It was the highest number of malnourished kids in the municipality of Alcantara. The municipality, itself, ranked 3rd in the same category in the whole Cebu province.
The nutrition program is a collective effort by the Palanas LGU, community volunteers and World Vision.
“It was alarming that our municipality had a high malnutrition rate,” expresses Henry Rabino, village chief. “We knew that we have to do something. Thankfully, plenty of help came for these children.”
Out of the 52 malnourished kids, 32 were enrolled in Pinoy Nutrition Hub (PNH). The said nutrition program is a Health and Nutrition project by child-focused NGO, World Vision. The idea of PNH is to rehabilitate malnourished children using local and affordable means. The organization also teaches parents and caregivers about good practices for feeding, proper hygiene and health care.
According to research, malnutrition cannot be blamed to a single cause – it is a multifaceted problem. Based on the situation in Palanas, the identified reason is the poor health-seeking behavior of the primary caregivers. Parents and guardians were observed to have few or zero knowledge on how to prepare nutritious meals. PNH aimed to change all that through its meal preparation workshops.
The local government of Palanas gave all their support for the program. They provided facilities, a space for the feeding sessions and even a portion of their implementation budget. Community volunteers were also a big factor of the program’s success. They were consistent in encouraging the parents to complete the PNH program and teaching them the proper way to prepare nutritious meals using backyard vegetables and other ingredients.
“It is a collective effort. We also commend the parents who were very willing to participate for their children’s rehabilitation,” says Maria Estela Yapanto, the lead health worker of Palanas. “There are many nutrition projects out there but it is still up to the participation of the parents on how these programs can be effective.”
After 12 PNH feeding sessions in a span of three months, 17 out of the 32 enrolled malnourished kids have returned to their normal weights. Zian, who was previously underweight, is now a healthy and energetic boy.
Anabella, who was having a hard time carrying Zian as they went up to the stage to receive the child’s diploma, could not be happier for her son. “I’m thankful that my son has recovered his weight. It is very timely since he is now a preschooler,” shares the proud mom.
Last 2016, World Vision’s PNH helped 400 children recover from malnutrition in covered areas throughout the country.
During the feeding sessions, mothers were also taught how to prepare nutritious meals so they can sustain the health status of their children even after the nutrition program.—World Vision/July 21, 2017