CEBU City Mayor Michael Rama says lowering the incidence of malnutrition in the city will be a key challenge to his administration.

Rama issued the statement after the city was listed among the areas in Central Visayas with a high incidence of malnutrition.

The National Nutrition Council (NNC) 7 ranked Cebu City 5th in the listing of areas with high malnutrition. The City reported 5.68 percent malnutrition prevalence.

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In Lapu-Lapu City, however, officials reported a drop in the number of severely malnourished children to just 1.4 percent, compared with the 20 percent prevalence rate in Metro Manila.

The drop earned the city an award for the implementation of its health program from 2006 to 2009.

The NNC 7 listed Negros Oriental cities as the top four areas in terms of malnutrition prevalence: Canlaon, 11.34 percent; Bayawan, 10.62 percent; Bais, 10.2 percent; and Tanjay, 6.42 percent.

Rama is scheduled to meet with former city mayor Florentino Solon, the city's nutrition consultant, and some city officials to discuss the issue.

Last January to March, the Cebu City Health Department conducted Operation Timbang on 130,383 preschoolers up to six years old who comprise 15.7 percent of the city's 827,285 children.

Of the total number of preschoolers weighed, 821 were found severely malnourished. The number, however, is lower than the 938 malnourished children reported last year.

NNC 7 nutrition officer Susan Orpilla earlier complained that some local government units, particularly the barangays, failed to prioritize health programs.

Rama said he has to check first all the programs of the city with regards to nutrition since he is still in his first week as mayor.

Projects

He, however, said his administration will definitely appropriate funds for intervention programs such as feeding projects.

The latest report of the Cebu City Health Department indicated that Barangay Ermita has the most number of severely underweight or malnourished children in the city.

"We don't look at the barangay captain, we look at all the residents, as a mayor, I will be serving all the constituents, I am the mayor of all," Rama said.

Orpilla said one reason the city ranks high in the list is the increasing migration of indigents from other areas.

Rama said the problem of migration should also be addressed, because it will affect support for constituents.

Other barangays in the city with the most cases of malnutrition are Mambaling, Buot Taup, Inayawan, Duljo-Fatima, Sapangdaku, Pamutan, Agsungot, Pahina San Nicolas and Punta Princesa.

Sawang Calero was reported last year as having the highest prevalence of malnutrition among the 80 barangays in the city but it is already out of the top 10 this year.

In Lapu-Lapu City, Barangay Bankal in the mainland and Caubian Islet have the most malnourished children, City Health Officer Rodulfo Berame said.

He said the city was able to lower the number of malnourished children because they visit their homes every day and provide them with micronutrients and supplementary food for 120 days.

He said the number of cases have steadily gone down because of their program.

The Lapu-Lapu City District Hospital closed its malnutrition ward in 2008 after the City decided to focus on the barangays, hiring barangay nutrition scholars to supplement barangay health workers. (ETB/AIV)