Manila, Philippines – International children’s organization Save the Children challenges candidates who filed their certificates before the electoral commission to address the global issue on children’s survival in an effort to decrease the number of preventable deaths of children and to ensure national development.
Anna Lindenfors, Philippine Country Director of Save the Children says, “this is a race for children’s survival. While there has been progress globally in terms of decrease in deaths before children reach their fifth birthday—from 12 million in 1990 to 6.9 million today, we are now entering the crucial phase and we need our leaders to make life-saving decisions to help reduce this number by two thirds in 2015.”
“Furthermore, one of the underlying causes of child deaths—malnutrition—is a scourge which threatens our global competitiveness. Malnourished and sickly children make unproductive adults, endangering the future of our country in a highly-competitive global economy,” adds Lindenfors.
Lindenfors shares, “The issue of child malnutrition is not just a threat but a real and pervading social problem. Those running for public office must recognize that child survival is a race against time. It must be raised as an urgent election issue.”
Government study proves prevalence of child malnutrition
The survey of Philippines’ Department of Science and Technology’s 2011 Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) shows the prevailing trend towards stunting and underweight cases in the country.
In the survey, 20.2% of children under the age of five, totaling to three million, are underweight. Under the same age range (up to sixty months), 33.6% of four million children are short for their age. Meanwhile, 7.3% or about 1 million kids are categorized as “wasted” or “thin” by measuring their weight for height ratio.
Infants (6 to 11 months old) were most vulnerable to wasting (low weight for height), while 3-year old children were the most affected by stunting (lacking in height). Children from 4 to 5 years were most prone to be underweight.
"Child malnutrition, though primarily caused by poverty, worsens underdevelopment. Today's malnourished children are tomorrow's unhealthy labor force, which could repel potential investors and induce capital flight," Lindenfors explains.
Breastfeeding and the Milk Code
Save the Children calls on candidates, especially those vying for legislative positions, to establish laws which promote “exclusive breastfeeding from birth to six months and breastfeeding with complementary feeding from 6 months onwards to provide essential nutrients such as Vitamin A and iron” to combat chronic malnutrition.
“Ways to fight malnutrition are readily available even to poor families. All they need is support from government and the private sector. We are alarmed by proposed reforms in the Milk Code that will deter breastfeeding and derail our attempts to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). We are calling on electoral candidates to take a stand on this issue,” says Lindenfors.
Race against Time, Race for Survival
To increase awareness on the issue of child survival, the Philippines is joining Save the Children’s global Race for Survival on October 16. The event aims to increase awareness of the deteriorating state of children worldwide. The Philippine leg will be held in Antipolo, Rizal and Koronadal in South Cotabato. About 150 children-participants in Antipolo City will be joined in by celebrity actor Dingdong Dantes of the YesPinoy Foundation, Rizal Governor Jun-Jun Ynares, entrepreneur Bam Aquino, National Youth Commission chair Leon Flores III, Rep. BH Herrera-Dy of Bagong Henerasyon partylist and various government officials.
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