Save the Children revealed that the Philippine economy is losing at least P328 billion a year due to the impact of childhood stunting in form of undernutrition on workforce productivity and education according to its newly released report.
Stunting is the most prevalent form of undernutrition and has permanent effects on a child’s growth and development.
The report entitled “Cost of Hunger:Philippines” suggested that in 2013, childhood stunting cost the Philippines almost three percent of its gross domestic product (GDP).
The overall economic loss of P328 billion consists of: P166.5 billion worth of lost income as a result of lower level of education achieved by the working population who suffered from childhood stunting; P160 billion in lost productivity due to premature deaths among children who would have been members of our current working-age population; and P1.23 billion in additional education costs to cover grade repetitions linked to undernutrition.
“This study proves that undernutrition has a cost to all of us. In just a year, Philippines has lost almost three percent of its GDP in terms of education and productivity costs due to stunting. If we add up health costs, the likely impact would be an additional 0.05–1.6 percent,” said Ned Olney, Save the Children Philippines country director.
The report shows that stunting is the best predictor of productivity and income and that undernutrition is linked to lower human capital. Children who are stunted in the first two years of life are more likely to repeat grade levels, drop out of school, delay school entry and have lower income levels when they enter the workforce.
Olney said: “If stunting rates continue to rise, it would be difficult for families to break free from poverty. It is the poor and neglected sectors of society that carry the burden of stunting. Any investment in reducing childhood undernutrition will reduce suffering and poverty, and will ultimately stimulate economic growth for all Filipinos.”
The report found, however, that Philippines’ investment in nutrition programs is very low at only 0.52 percent of general government expenditures compared to the global average allocation of 2.1 percent.
Citing the report findings, Save the Children highlighted the need to invest in nutrition programs during the child’s first 1,000 days, from pregnancy up to the second birthday, which is considered a critical period of care to avert stunting.
“It should outrage us that 95 children will die every day because of malnutrition,” he added.
Save the Children is raising the alarm on the nutrition crisis and is calling the national and local government, private sector and the donors to end the appalling state of malnutrition in the Philippines by:
- Supporting the “First 1000 Days Bill” to enhance the delivery of quality nutrition interventions in the first 1000 days of a child’s life to prevent stunting among children.
- Pushing and sustaining equitable nutrition policies and programs and ensure budgetary allocations that address the immediate, underlying and basic causes of malnutrition.
- Ensuring security of tenure and sustained training of the community front-liners, such as barangay health workers and nutrition officers and scholars. Health and nutrition workers are highly politicized, lack incentives and support for the training that have no security of tenure.
- National and local governments providing clear and separate budget for nutrition-specific interventions to avoid confusion between health and nutrition budgets.
- Intensifying health and nutrition-related training, research and extension support activities to support the First 1000 Days Program through the Barangay Integrated Development Approach for Nutrition Improvement (Bidani) Network Program of the Rural Poor and other relevant approaches, thereby strengthening delivery systems in partnership with the LGUs.
- Scaling up cost-effective and affordable high-impact nutrition interventions to prevent undernutrition that cripples the country, such as promoting of exclusive breastfeeding, complementary feeding, vitamin A and iron supplementation, treatment of acute malnutrition and maternal nutrition.
- Strengthening enforcement of the Milk Code (Executive Order Number 51), and the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act (Republic Act Number 10028) to protect, promote, and support optimal infant and young child feeding, both in private and public facilities and spaces.
“We call for the strict and sustained implementation of nutrition-specific interventions, including infant and young child feeding (IYCF), micronutrient supplementation and the Community Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM), which is now required to be implemented nationwide,” said Save the Children.
It also urged the government to do the following:
- Revise conditionalities under the government’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) to include mandatory breastfeeding and education sessions on infant and young child feeding.
- Align health and nutrition programs to the priorities and directions of the Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition and the Strategy for Women, Infant, and Young Child Nutrition
- Increase the focus on water, hygiene and sanitation interventions for children by targeting child-related behaviors and risk factors, such as safe disposal of human waste, complementary food hygiene and handwashing and intensifying promotion of Philippine Approach to Total Sanitation (PhATS) program to reinvigorate our country’s progress toward the national goals of eliminating open defecation.