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Malnutrition in the Philippines.
Ravenholt A.
PIP: In the Philippines poverty and pervasive malnutrition are not limited to families of deprived seasonal workers. Undernourishment is endemic and increasing throughout most of this archipelago of some 7100 islands, and is compounded by the prevalence of intestinal parasites and gastrointestinal diseases which health workers estimate deprive youngsters of at least 5-10% of the nutritional value in food they do consume. This problem is particularly prevalent in rural villages and city slums where many people eat with their fingers. According to the Philippine Ministry of Health, nearly 1/2 of all reported deaths are among infants and children through age 4, and about 1/2 of the accelerated death rate among those age 5 and younger is related to malnutrition, compounded by diarrhea, measles, and malaria which is returning to areas where it once was almost eradicated. 3 factors critically affect a newborn's survival prospects: the family size he or she is born into; the time or spacing between the mother's pregnancies; and the child's birth order. Evidence indicates that, during the 1970s, as US aid and other family planning assistance became available, they were used most among families in the 2 highest income classes, where reduction of family size is under way. Poverty is the most fundamental cause of malnutrition, although many other factors contribute. Land reform has brought security of tenure and increasingly is transferring ownership of fields to former tenants of rice and corn lands. For the former tenants enhanced security brings greater income and better eating for the farm families retain more of the crop. The undernourished and truly poor of the Philippines number about 1/2 of the population. Although dispersed throughout most of the archipelago, there are important regional differences. These related to marked geographic patterns that affect fertility of the soil, length of the dry season, fortunes of predominant crops, vulnerability to destructive typhoons, chronic warfare and other endemic lawlessness, major debilitating diseases, and especially population pressure. Malnutrition is not a hidden problem. The government, almost since the proclamation of 1972 martial law, has campaigned against malnutrition. During the 1970s, the government developed a major program of expanded production with the result that rice production expanded substantially. Even this achievement leaves the average Filipino short by 300 calories of food intake per day. It is not jiggering with food aid or government price incentives that will assure that future Filipinos will have enough to eat. Only a productive revolution of rural life that also educates mothers to know what makes for sound family nutrition will be adequate.

MANILA, PHILIPPINES (22 August 2005) - A lack of basic vitamins and micronutrients in the diet is damaging the health of one third of the world's population and hampering economic development, according to a recent joint report from the United Nations Children's Fund and the Micronutrient Initiative (MI).

Simple iron deficiency in Indonesia reduces gross domestic product by some 0.5% each year ($485 million) through lost productivity, as estimated in 2003's Global Assessment Report on Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies.

Yet food fortification offers a low-cost method for facing the problem, and ought to be the first public-policy choice for delivering nutrition improvement programs and lowering clinical malnutrition. With food fortification strategies supported and maintained through market-based systems, governments can focus the delivery of food supplements, nutrition services, and dietary education to disadvantaged populations with limited access to fortified food.

A Simple and Cheap Technology

Fortifying flour, salt, and oil, for example, offers an effective and inexpensive way to get essential vitamins and minerals into food for low-income and at-risk...
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