Malnutrition in the PhilippinesThe Republic of the Philippines is a nation comprised of several islands in southeast Asia. The Philippines gained independence after centuries of colonial rule from the Spanish and the U.S. in 1946. However, it is still struggling to overcome the effects long-term colonial rule had on its people. Despite many government campaigns to alleviate this issue, poverty is still rampant on these islands. While just over 20 percent of the overall population of the Philippines is impoverished, there are many areas of the country in which roughly 75 percent of the public live in poverty. While there are many factors that serve to further cycles of poverty, one of the biggest barriers this population faces is malnutrition in the Philippines.

Background on Malnutrition

A person impacted by malnutrition is not getting enough nutrients, either due to a lack of food or a poor diet. In children, this can lead to stunted growth. Furthermore, it can lead to serious health issues for people of all ages. These health issues can be chronic, and make it hard for individuals to have sustained employment. Additionally, these issues can leave children orphaned at a young age, perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

Malnutrition in the Philippines

  1. Half the population suffers from malnutrition-related conditions – In the Philippines, about 50 percent of the population suffers from anemia caused by iron deficiency. Large percentages of people suffer from other malnutrition-related ailments. Such ailments lead to fatigue and decreased immune function.
  2. Stunted growth is common – One in three children in the Philippines has had their growth stunted by malnutrition. If this stunting occurs after two years of age, there is a chance it can be irreversible and even fatal.
  3. Lack of education causes malnutrition symptoms to go unnoticed – Signs of malnutrition are often missed in the Philippines due to a lack of education the public receives on nutrition. A child with a large stomach may not be perceived as having a nutritional deficiency. However, a distended stomach is often an indicator that something is amiss.
  4. Malnutrition is bad for the economy – People who experience stunting due to malnutrition tend to have far lower incomes than those who did not. This is also the case for families who have lost a child due to malnutrition. Overall, malnutrition takes away approximately $328 billion dollars, or 3 percent, of the Philippines’ GDP per year.
  5. Children’s Hour is helping families – A nonprofit organization called Children’s Hour has set up across the country. The organization focuses on ending malnutrition in the Philippines. They do this by providing meals for families, as well as teaching them about healthy practices in eating and preparing food. When they began these programs, 90 to 95 percent of participants were undernourished. Now, 75 percent of the children are at a healthy weight. While this organization has made massive strides, it is a nonprofit with limited funding. For this program to expand, it would need a lot more funding.

Ending Malnutrition Can Offer a Brighter Future

Ultimately, ensuring that children have adequate nutrients in their diets can do a lot to ensure that malnutrition in the Philippines becomes a thing of the past. When rates of malnutrition decrease, people will be healthier, happier and more productive. And finally, far less will live in poverty.

– Gillian Buckley
Photo: Flickr

The Link Between Sanitation and MalnutritionWorldwide, about 844 million people live without access to clean water and about 2.3 billion people lack adequate sanitation, according to WaterAid. Along with the lack of clean water access, about 155 million people worldwide experience stunting caused by acute malnutrition.

WaterAid has recognized the importance of tackling water, sanitation and health (WASH) deprivation as a tool to end chronic malnutrition. It believes that by addressing the link between sanitation and malnutrition, malnutrition will decrease in proactive countries. According to WaterAid, nearly half of all malnutrition cases are caused by WASH conflicts.

WaterAid argues that an array of diseases contribute to malnutrition, all of which are associated with a lack of clean water, sanitation and hygiene. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), those diseases include diarrhea, intestinal nematodes, trachoma, schistosomiasis and others, all of which are preventable.

According to the WHO’s report, about 50 percent of all childhood malnutrition is caused by chronic diarrhea and infectious intestinal nematodes. This results in about 860,000 children under the age of five dying each year from malnutrition directly caused by clean water, sanitation and hygiene conflicts.

“The truth is that food alone will never be enough to tackle the problem, we have to target its underlying causes too,” said Megan Wilson-Jones, WaterAid’s policy analyst on health and hygiene. “Clean water, adequate sanitation and good hygiene are also vital ingredients for good health.”

WaterAid released a “Recipe for Success” that urges governments and organizations to:

  • Implement WASH and nutrition plans in local governments
  • Increase the amount of government funding for WASH-oriented programs
  • Focus first on mothers and babies, who are most affected by sanitation and malnutrition
  • Target areas within countries (such as rural areas) that show high numbers of malnutrition
  • Promote nutritious foods and daily hand hygiene
  • Create sustainable WASH programs by educating health workers, teachers and parents on proper hygiene and nutrition

One country that illustrates the link between sanitation and malnutrition is Paraguay. According to WaterAid, access to clean water in Paraguay’s rural areas increased by about 43 percent from 2000 to 2015, causing WaterAid to declare it the most improved country. According to The Guardian, the reason for Paraguay’s success was because of the government’s improved efficiency. The sanitation and water agency was placed within the department of health, making the issue a much higher priority. This, along with many more steps taken by the government toward becoming more sustainable and efficient, is what helped Paraguay achieve success.

The results in Paraguay can be seen in the World Bank’s DataBank statistics:

  • Percentage of population with access to sanitation
    1990: 87 percent
    2015: 96 percent
  • Percentage with access to clean water
    1990: 93 percent
    2015: 99 percent
  • Percentage affected by malnutrition
    1990: 18 percent
    2012: 11 percent

By looking at Paraguay’s statistics, WaterAid’s assertion of the link between sanitation and malnutrition can be confidently supported.

WaterAid continues to voice its concern for WASH to eliminate worldwide malnutrition, but success cannot be achieved without governments also recognizing the link between sanitation and malnutrition as well as providing efficient and sustainable programs.

– Austin Stoltzfus

Photo: Flickr