I recently went on field visit with Save the Children employees so I could witness the work they do to benefit kids in need. One big issue in the Philippines is the large amount of malnourished children under age five. Currently, the Philippines is among the top ten countries in the world with the most number of malnourished children. It has been reported that 2.7 million Filipino children experience hunger due to lack of food and extreme poverty, while 1.5 million go to bed without eating for the entire day. As a result, the Philippines ranks 9th in the world with the highest number of stunted children, which means that children are too short or underdeveloped for their age.
But malnutrition is not just being too thin or too small. This negatively affects children’s health, school performance, labor force participation, and eventual productivity in life. The World Bank estimates that 1 percent loss in adult height due to stunting leads to 1.4 percent loss in economic productivity.
A child’s first 1,000 days could shape their future. Poor nutrition during this crucial stage affects a child’s physical and mental health, with impacts lasting until adulthood. As a result Save the Children launched a campaign called, Lahat Dapat (http://www.savethechildren.org.ph/lahatdapat/1000challengeph/), to focus on meeting the needs of children during these first 1,000 days.
One effort in the fight against hunger is Save the Children’s Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) program. CMAM trains parents on nutrition and childcare and teaches Barangay (district) Health workers how to treat malnutrition. The program also helps identify children in need, provides them Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food, which is specially formulated for a child’s speedy recovery from severe malnutrition. The progress is also measured on a weekly basis.
Below is a picture of the Ready-to-Use Food:
Ok, now for the details on my day in the field. I went to a poverty stricken community in an area called Navotas Market 3. Here two Save the Children employees monitor children weekly in the CMAM program. I met the employees, Fidel and Rogelina, in the Quezon City office before we headed to Navotas. Before we entered the market we first met the barangay leader for a courtesy visit. He provided us two security guys to accompany us. This is also where the district health office is located so we also picked up two health care workers. The workers help identify children who are malnourished and assist with the monitoring. A communications colleague from my team, Fritzie, went on the visit as well. Below is a picture of the entire group eating lunch after the visit to the community:
We then drove to market 3, parked nearby and walked into the community. The living conditions are unlike anything I have witnessed and smelled. There are kids running around in the street with and without clothes. The street is actually a dirt pathway with standing water everywhere. There is no running water and most families don’t have a toilet. They depend on a communal bathroom which charges for use. Most families can’t afford this cost so going to the bathroom in public is commonplace. Even though the conditions were difficult the kids still were running around laughing and playing. A few kids had strings with little fish heads on them in order to get a puppy to chase them around. Here is another photo of the neighborhood:
One additional thing that is very difficult to see is the mounds of trash in the neighborhood. It was an entire block long with hordes of flies everywhere. Kids were playing on it and even squatting on top of it to go to the bathroom.
Once we walked to an open area in the community the Save employees and health workers reached out to the families with children in the CMAM program. Five children that day were measure, weighed and provided the Ready-to-eat food for the week.
Since March there have been 117 malnourished babies treated in Navotas. These children are now enrolled in a supplementary feeding program to ensure their steady progress. This included Joel, a severely malnourished baby, pictured below with his Mom Bernadette. Fritzie interviewed Bernadette for additional Save the Children stories and after the interview Bernadette showed us her home in the neighborhood.
All in all it was very intense day. However it demonstrated first hand the value Save the Children provides. Witnessing this also helps increase the passion in my principle role- fundraising. Without additional corporate and individual funds the CMAM program cannot be replicated in other areas of the Philippines in need.
Next blog I will go less serious and talk about sports in the Philippines!
Thanks again for reading,