Cost of undernutrition
Published by the Visayan Daily Star
Editor-in-Chief & President
Bureau Chief, Dumaguete
MAJA P. DELY
|CARLOS ANTONIO L. LEONARDIA
The United Nation's Children's Fund, together with the Department of Health, the National Nutrition Council, and the Philippine Legislator's Committee on Population and Development in its report titled “Economic Consequences of Undernutrition in the Philippines” claims that the country loses over P220 billion yearly due to the high prevalence of child undernutrition.
The report said that while the Philippines has among the highest economic growth rates in Southeast Asia, “the nation's nutrition indicators continue to lag behind most countries in the region, creating a drain of about $4.5 billion per year from the national economy.”
NNC Executive Director Maria-Bernardita Flores said an estimated P5 billion yearly is needed for very key interventions, especially during a child's first 1,000 days. The report's benefit-cost ratios indicate that for every $1 investment to address undernutrition, there is a return of $12. This led UNICEF Philippines Country Representative Lotta Sylwander to ask “Why is it so difficult for Congress and Senate to say we're going to invest $1 to get $12 back? Because that's really the return of this investment.”
Sylwander said, she believes that nutrition isn't yet a priority of the Philippine government but there is increasing interest. She adds that politicians should look at the report on the costs of undernutrition and “be bothered… be concerned of the massive losses of money, of capacity, of moving the country forward,” as it is within their power to do something, she also said.
While there are non-governmental organizations pitching in the effort against undernutrition, the biggest gains can only be made if government is involved. When our leaders and politicians prioritize programs and interventions to combat its negative effects, especially during the first 1,000 days of life of every disadvantaged Filipino, it is the entire country that ultimately gains. Better fed Filipinos are healthier, smarter, have more potential and are more productive and a determined investment in developing that kind of Filipino is exactly what our nation needs to fuel its growth and progress in the years to come.*