$178.1 million World Bank loan approved to resolve malnutrition in Philippines

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The World Bank headquarters are seen in Washington, DC, on May 25, 2022. (Photo by DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)
The World Bank headquarters are seen in Washington, DC, on May 25, 2022. (Photo by DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)

Washington-based multilateral lender World Bank has approved the Philippines’ request for a $178.1 million loan aimed at combating malnutrition and stunting in the country, its board of executive directors confirmed on Tuesday, June 22.

The Philippines Multisectoral Nutrition Project, which would be implemented under the Department of Health’s Universal Health Coverage initiative, will provide nutrition support and healthcare services to combat stunting among children aged two years and below in 235 different municipalities and local government units (LGUs) with high poverty and malnutrition incidences.

“The persistence of high levels of childhood undernutrition in the Philippines, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, could lead to a significant increase in inequality of opportunities in the country,” said Ndiame Diop, World Bank’s Country Director for Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand.

Diop also stressed that investing in the nutritional status of children would be key for the country’s future prosperity, so that these children will grow up strongly and more likely to possess the nutritional capability to be productive economically.

“Where healthy children can do well in school and look forward to a prosperous future, stunted children tend to be sickly, learn less, more likely to drop out of school and their economic productivity as adults can be clipped by more than 10 percent in their lifetime. Hence, improving the nutritional status of children is key to the country’s goals of boosting human capital while strengthening the country’s economic recovery and prospects for long-term growth,” he added.

The program, according to the Washington-based multilateral lender, would benefit households with pregnant women and children under two years old through “high-impact nutrition interventions,” which would include feeding of infant and young children, regular monitoring of their growth, multiple micronutrient supplements for children aged six to 23 months, iron folic acid supplementation, support for nutritionally-at-risk pregnant women through dietary supplementation, and treatment of moderate to severe acute malnutrition.

It will provide performance-based grants to local LGUs in the delivery of pre-defined nutrition, maternal and child services, and improvements in local level planning and budgeting for nutrition projects.

The project will also aim to support behavioral change campaigns, such as washing hands with soap, easier access to improved sanitation and safe drinking water, early childcare and development, nutrition-focused childcare development activities, and access to the country’s social protection programs such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s Pantawid Pamilya or 4Ps.

The interventions will particularly focus on the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, which is a critical period in the development of children, according to the World Bank’s Senior Nutrition Specialist in the East Asia and Pacific Region, Nkosinathi Mbuya.

“Undernutrition and exposure to risks and adversities during the first 1,000 days of the child’s life can disrupt cognitive, emotional, and physical development and hold children back from reaching their full potential, thus affecting the formation of the country’s human capital,” said Mbuya.

“Therefore, interventions to improve nutritional outcomes must focus on this age group and women of child-bearing age,” Mbuya further pointed out.

The protracted war between Russia and Ukraine poses a great challenge on the country’s food and nutrition security, most especially to Filipino households, which is why a swift and effective action would be key to mitigate, if not fully eradicate, hunger and malnutrition in the country.

Marvin Joseph Ang is a news and creative writer who follows developments in politics, democracy, and popular culture. He advocates for a free press and national democracy. The views expressed are his own.

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