SAMthing is Wrong Here-A A +A
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
I BELIEVE that food will always be one of the last bastions of one’s culture. In UP Diliman, my Dabawenyo batchmates would always look for kinilaw, law-uy and panga after weeks being served chicken dishes at the dorm. Our Pinoy delegation had the chance to join a showcase of Asian food at my university in Germany and guess which Filipino food we cooked for our German and African classmates’ chicken adobo and sinangag of course (fifteen kilos of adobo gone in a few minutes).
In college, despite the barrage of political “isms”, many never understood the propaganda because these were very big words that no one really cared to simplify. It was in the field of community development where I was introduced to food politics and it has since been a favorite of mine in explaining the development issues our country is confronted with -- because everyone understood food.
We have just celebrated Kadayawan and in the next few days we will be enjoying nature’s bounty -- fruits, vegetables, seafood, etc. with lots of beer and pulutan siyempre. We will be feasting and eating all these food to celebrate a good harvest.
But really... will ALL of us be feasting until our bellies are full?
A portion of our local people is actually undernourished. Some families rely on noodles as their main course because that is all they can afford. Can you imagine students attending classes with empty stomachs? They are real and I have met them. I personally knew some university students who would rather spend their meager baon for photocopying precious study materials rather than have a proper lunch. A pack of noodles with lots of rice can be portioned for altanghap -- almusal, tanghalian at hapunan.
Early this year, some researchers from Unicef presented shocking data to the City Health Office that there are about three thousand children in Davao City who are classified as SAM (severe acute malnourished). These are children below five years old who may die of malnourishment soon if not given emergency medication. This condition is so appalling that the child’s body is eating itself just to sustain itself. Yes folks it is shocking that this is happening in Davao City -- land of the fruits, vegetables, tuna etc.
SAM children are found all over the country but it seems that they are always overlooked. Mere lugaw feeding programs even with a few strands of chicken bits will not create a dent on these children. They need special food supplements that will allow them to recover in a few months. Unicef says there is available ready-to-use therapeutic food that can solve this problem -- funding is the only issue... They believe that Davao City can lead in the fight to end SAM in the Philippines. They believe that Davao City can be the champion to finally convince LGUs and the National Government that we have to end this now.
These are a few scattered initiatives trying to ensure food security -- some school officials and generous alumni help hungry students by providing them with a free hot meal once a day, I know Ateneo de Davao University has such initiative. Another good friend of mine, Dina P., is now busy cooking the nutritious free lunch meals she serves to the malnourished students of her adopted elementary school.
How about it Drs. Villafuerte (one is a City Councilor who heads the Committee on Health and the other is our City Health Officer), will you take up this challenge? Will our CSOs (Rotary Clubs, Lions, Kiwanis, Jaycees, etc.) engaged in feeding programs refocus their efforts to acquire these ready to use therapeutic foods and feed our SAM children? Organize a task force on this and I know that a lot of people will join this very worthy cause, I would.
Isn’t it ironic that the region known to be one of the food baskets of the country has children wasting away because of malnutrition? We have been exporting protein in the form of tuna to Japan and other affluent countries while our children lack protein. We have been exporting vitamins and minerals by exporting bananas while our children are vitamin and mineral deficient. We have lots of potential farmlands but a significant portion of it near the city proper is idle and unproductive... victims of land speculation.
As we count our blessings ... let us reflect on the words of Mahatma Gandhi .... “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on August 20, 2013.