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Siargao malnutrition: Town mayors lay out interventions in Cebu

By: Niña Mae C. Oliverio - Multimedia Reporter - CDN Digital | May 28,2024 - 10:53 AM

Siargao malnutrition

Siargao town mayors shared their learnings and experiences in ZFF’s Learning Forum on Responsive Nutrition Leadership and Governance for Faster Improvement of Nutrition Outcomes. | Screengrab from ZFF/Facebook

CEBU CITY, Philippines — The local chief executives of the three municipalities in Siargao recently converge here to craft ways in combatting malnutrition through collaboration and coordination of the members of the local government units (LGUs).

During the learning exchange forum regarding responsive nutrition leadership organized by Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF) last May 22, the mayors of Pilar, Burgos, and Sta. Monica in Siargao share how their LGUs address the pressing health and nutrition concerns in the country.

All three towns were part of the Municipal Nutrition Governance Program (MNGP) implemented by ZFF that aims to help the LGUs in improving their health systems for their constituents that include pregnancy tracking, prenatal, and immunization services, among others.


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With ZFF, the forum presented an opportunity to explore transformative journeys of the three municipalities under the AHON Siargao Capacity Enhancement Program (CAPE) in partnership with the Alumni Association of the Asian Institute of Management (AAAIM) through the support of Kristian Gerhard Jebsen Foundation (KGJF) to reduce the prevalence of malnutrition and stunting.

The Ahon Siargao CAPE aims to enhance nutritional status of pregnant women and children under two years old in the targeted municipalities.

A shared responsibility

Pilar town Mayor Maria Liza Resurreccion said she is grateful to ZFF’s program because it gave her insights and capacitated her in addressing the health concerns of their local government.

Resureccion said that they worked hard to make the barangay officials coordinate with the LGU to address the health and nutrition concerns, especially on the issue of malnutrition.

She added that they also made sure that all the 15 barangays in their LGU allocate a percentage of their budget for nutrition concerns, noting that the Barangay Nutrition Action Plan is a shared responsibility.

Other than that, Resurrecion believed that prioritizing nutrition is vital for the children’s education, after she figured out there were some children attending school who do not know how to read.

She said that education is ‘the primary vehicle to emancipate most of the people from poverty but if this is the kind of children that will be going to our schools, then there is no better future for us to look forward to.’

“We do not have the luxury of time. We have to solve this now. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be looking at the very bright future that we are hoping for our children,” Resurreccion added.

Nutrition: A great investment

Meanwhile, Burgos town Mayor Angie Arcen highlighted the importance of investing in the children’s nutrition in their municipality, specifically in the first 1000 days.

Arcen said that Burgos was able to “realize the importance of investing in nutrition specifically in the first 1000 days” through ZFF’s program and through the National Nutrition Council (NNC) of Caraga.

Allocation of funds for nutrition

Because of that, they also created a Municipal Nutrition Committee and allocated funds for improving health services, providing medicines, multivitamins, and owning clean drinking water supply for the constituents, among other things.

“Nutrition is a great investment for the future. Even though resources both financial and human resources for the municipality may be lacking, it will only take creativity and diligence in engaging partners to be able to implement nutrition-sensitive and specific programs,” Arcen said.

Furthermore, Sta. Monica town Mayor Arwela Dolar also expressed her gratitude to the Ahon program.

Dolar said that before the program was introduced to them, they had been relying on the mandates from the Department of Health (DOH) especially on health concerns.

“We really thought we were doing enough to solve malnutrition in our municipality. There was no direct collaboration among the executive department and the community sectors. I really thought it was a sole responsibility of the rural health units,” Dolar said.

Dolar then highlighted the importance of collaboration among the LGU and the barangays in their towns, and eventually applied similar interventions like what the towns of Pilar and Burgos did to their constituents to address Siargao malnutrition.

Sticking to the goal of zero percent stunting

Ernesto Garilao, chairman of ZFF, said in his speech that their program as applied to nutrition, allowed the political leaders and their teams to be “trained in health leadership and governance to transform their health systems to be responsive and inclusive to produce better health and nutrition outcomes for their constituents.”


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Garilao said that the country’s current stunting rate was 26.70 percent based on the expanded nutrition survey in 2021. He added that it has remained “stagnant for the past two decades” with one in four children under five years old stunted.

He said that it has “negative consequences” for the child’s future, education performance, and work opportunities.

All stunting rates in the three municipalities in Siargao have decreased and Garilao said in his speech that the results were “encouraging” as they showed a “reduction in the stunting rate better than the national performance.”

A work in progress

And from 2022 to 2023, all three towns reached 85 percent coverage rate for the Operation Timbang Plus (OPT+) which is a good indicator that the municipalities are already on top of addressing Siargao malnutrition.

However, he added that “it is still a work in progress.”

“The goal in stunting is zero. We collectively hold this to the Filipino child,” Garilao added.

Austere Panadero, ZFF president, said that all of those interventions and programs were part of the foundation’s and the LGU’s efforts to realize the Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition (PPAN) which served the government’s blueprint in addressing concerns on malnutrition in the next five years launched last year.

“Ito ay nakita rin ng ating PPAN at sinasabi nila, in fact, these are the interventions that we call here enabling programs. And the key players are the LGUs wala na pong iba kundi ang ating pamahalaang lokal,” Panadero said.

He added that the ZFF programs are “largely” dedicated to enabling programs like how they strengthen governance intervention.

“The work to address malnutrition is a multifaceted one. It’s about not only one group being able to do all the things that are shown there (referring to the interventions) but it’s really coming together and working in a coherent manner in terms of synergizing so that we can all be operationalizing as many communities as possible,” Panadero said.

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TAGS: malnutrition, Siargao

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