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Vegetables and community participation: The fight against malnutrition in the Philippines

World Vision
7 April 2015 by Mong Jimenez
Vegetables and community participation: The fight against malnutrition in the Philippines

In the Philippines, nutrition programs are helping parents to feed their children the nutritious foods they need to reach their full potential. Photo by Monalinda Cadiz, World Vision

It is true that the life of a child can greatly affect us.

When your own child gets sick, you make sure that the best health services are provided. When you go see a movie and a child character faces death, it breaks your heart. When you pass by a child living on the street, you look at them with pity or if you find it too unbearable, you look away.

This is because, undeniably, children are close to our hearts.

How would you feel knowing that there are millions of children who do not receive enough nutrition – leaving them malnourished, sick, or worse – fighting for their lives.
In the Philippines, 20.2% of children from 0 to 4 years old suffer from being underweight. 32% of kids who belong to an older age group (5-10 years old) share the same plight. Between these two age groups, 7.9% of them are acutely malnourished. These research findings are based on a recent study.*

A child enjoys her yummy, nutritious meal at the Pinoy Nutrition Hub. Photo by Monalinda Cadiz, World Vision

A child enjoys her yummy, nutritious meal at the Pinoy Nutrition Hub. Photo by Monalinda Cadiz, World Vision

I have in my own adventures – or misadventures – witnessed the lives of these children. Being an aid worker, I have the opportunity to travel to the furthest communities in the country.

It no longer surprises me to see small huts made that shelter 10-13 family members inside, or small children carrying heavy weights.

What I find difficult still is seeing little children, as young as 2-3 years old, who have small bodies because of malnutrition. Whether these children were born with an easy life or not, they deserve a chance to reach their full potential.

It is their right.

All means must be exhausted to keep them from being malnourished or to help them rehabilitate.

World Vision also believes that children must be protected from malnutrition. In fact, they have intensified their work and developed a program that will solely focus on battling this health problem.

I recently travelled to Bohol, the 10th largest island in the Philippine archipelago, to observe the work against malnutrition, which World Vision calls the Pinoy Nutrition Hub (PNH).

PNH’s strategy is to work with caregivers, especially mothers, and other key members of the community to maximize resources and advocate good health practices to provide effective and sustainable nutrition to children.

A mother at the Pinoy Nutrition Hub feeds her daughter a healthy meal. Photo by Mong Jimenez, World Vision

A mother at the Pinoy Nutrition Hub feeds her daughter a healthy meal. Photo by Mong Jimenez, World Vision

The term “hub” is a learning venue for a group of caregivers with malnourished children. A hub lasts for 12 days. Within this period, enrolled children are served healthy meals using locally available and affordable ingredients. World Vision also teaches caregivers to produce the healthy foods, to improve healthy feeding and caring practices to children.

Despite its tourist attractions such as the chocolate hills and tarsiers [a small tree-loving primate], Bohol is a province with many cases of malnutrition.

When I arrived the area, I watched mothers gathering in a bungalow-type house with their children playing around. They were busy cooking a vegetable meal. I was fortunate to come in the middle of their PNH session.

I immediately pulled out my camera and took some pictures. I talked to some of the mothers, each one has a unique story to share but they were almost in chorus when they shared about their children being malnourished before. I also played along with the children who were a bit aloof at first, but eventually smiled from ear to ear each time I point my camera towards them.

“I am thankful to World Vision and I’m paying back by volunteering to our Pinoy Nutrition Hub group. I am sharing my secret recipe of my favorite vegetable meal to the group,” says Hailny. Her daughter's health has improved since she participated in the 12 day program. Photo by Mong Jimenez, World Vision

“I am thankful to World Vision and I’m paying back by volunteering to our Pinoy Nutrition Hub group. I am sharing my secret recipe of my favorite vegetable meal to the group,” says Hailny. Her daughter’s health has improved since she participated in the 12 day program. Photo by Mong Jimenez, World Vision

It is amazing to learn about the great work that World Vision is doing to engage communities to battle malnutrition. It is even more amazing to meet the people behind these feats – the aid workers, community partners, and the caregivers.

But nothing compares to witnessing the results – to meet the children benefiting from the nutrition project, with their healthy bodies and smiles. After all, children are always close to our hearts.

*Reference – 2011 National Nutrition Survey for Children and Other Age Groups by Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI)

Mong Jimenez

Mong Jimenez works as a communications associate for World Vision Philippines.

 

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