MALNUTRITION, despite 36 years of observance of Nutrition Month every July, continues to afflict children in the region.

Data from the Cordillera regional nutrition council revealed some provinces in the region still have high prevalence of malnutrition based on the study of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) with high occurrences of underweight, under height and nutrition-deficient children.

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In the FNRI study, National Nutrition Council-CAR Director June Falancy said 20 out of 100 Cordillera children are malnourished.

Falancy said the provinces of Abra, Kalinga, Apayao and Ifugao still have high prevalence of malnutrition exceeding the country's national average of 26.2 percent and the regional average of 19.9 percent for children aged 0 to 5 months old.

"This is already alarming as the interplay of many factors that result to malnourishment remain a challenge for us all," Falancy said.

For children aged 6 to 10 years old, the province of Abra and Kalinga also scored low with high underweight and under height prevalence.

Falancy remains optimistic though despite the challenges of high malnutrition cases in the past three decades, nutrition programs are still being done by many agencies which for now has become an inter-agency effort to combat malnutrition.

She added coming up with localized nutrition plans such as the Population Com-mission's inclusion of modules on early childhood nutrition in couples' classes are a big help in their goal of eradicating malnutrition in the region.

Population Commission Regional Director Aurora Quiray said as many as 28,000 couples all over the region were already educated on childhood and early pregnancy nutrition which includes breastfeeding trainings which help alleviate hunger and malnutrition among babies.

Moreover, agencies like the Department of Health and the Department of Social Welfare and Development also institutionalized their Nutrition Month programs to help answer these problems.

DOH-CAR nutrition coordinator Aida Gonzales said the DOH has been regularly monitoring breast-feeding among mothers to ensure proper nutrition of infants.

They have also advocated a ban on the sale of infant formulas for children aged six months and below and instead rallied for nutrition and colostrum-rich breast milk for babies.

DSWD-CAR information officer John Eric Escalante meanwhile added they have been giving P100 per family and as much as P300 per child in the 4 Ps or Pantawid Pamiliyang Pilipino Program to more than 3,000 food-poor and cash-poor indigents identified by the agency in all the provinces in the region as part of their thrusts to stop hunger.

He added they are going to add 2,500 more targeted beneficiaries in the following years aside from their Food for School program aimed at increasing attendance of schoolchildren aged 0 to 14 years old.

Meanwhile, Falancy highlighted success of their efforts in lowering the number of nutritionally-at risk pregnant women which at 16.9 percent is below the Philippine average of 26.3 percent.

Other successful campaigns of the council also resulted to lowering of iron deficiency anemia and iodine deficiency disorder cases in children and lactating mothers in the region.

However, despite the DOH and the nutrition council's efforts to increase awareness and usage of the Sangkap Pinoy Seal among manufactured food products, Falancy reported food fortification in these aspects remain at a low of 12.2 percent and 8.8 percent, respectively.

She said food fortification has already gained a foothold in some Cordillera products produced by the Benguet State University including noodles and snacks. (JM Agreda)