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DOST’s nutri-food packs intervention successful in curbing malnutrition among 253 Leyte children

By Philippine Information Agency (PIA 8)
December 20, 2011

TACLOBAN CITY  –  After a 120-days feeding program using the DOST nutri-food packs intervention, the 253 children in two pilot areas in Leyte gained an average weight of two kilos.

Department of Science and Technology Leyte Provincial Director John Glen Ocana informed that the 125 children in Pastrana showed an increased weight of 1.92 kilograms while the 127 children in Mahaplag gained an average of 2.2 kilograms.

Director Ocana said that the result of the pilot testing, the local government units have been convinced that there is a simple and affordable solution to arrest malnutrition in the area.

The DOST under the leadership of Secretary Mario Montejo, developed this nutrition improvement program as a package of nutrition intervention to free Filipino children from malnutrition, DOST Region 8 Director Edgardo Esperancilla told the members of the local media during the Harampang Ha PIA media interaction held at the PIA Regional Office.

The program targeted children under two years old because it is during this time when children undergo rapid growth and development and are highly vulnerable to malnutrition, Director Esperancilla said.

"This is the age when the child may have irreversible long-term physical and mental damage if no intervention is done," the DOST director added.

Under the feeding program, DOST-FNRI developed 20-gram packs of complementary nutri-food will be given to underweight children for three months.

Six- to eleven-month-old infants were given rice-mongo instant baby food with 96 kilocalories and 3 grams of protein and rice-mongo-sesame quick-cook porridge with 89 kilocalories and 3g protein.

Rice-mongo curls were made for one-year-old children and pack 94 kilocalories and 2.4g protein. The curls were coated with cheese or chocolate for flavor.

Mothers of underweight children were required to attend nutrition classes on the importance of breastfeeding for newborn infants, meal plan preparation, and vegetable gardening to have continuous supply of healthy food.

After three months, a team will study the effects of the intervention program by monitoring children's weight, consumption of nutripacks and attendance of mothers in nutrition classes.

Study results will be used for designing a community-based nutrition program for Filipino children.

Rice-mongo blend is one of national government’s mature technology and a widely-available food with high energy and protein content. FNRI claimed that its nutritional quality is better than completely cereal-based commercial baby food products.

The DOST-FNRI has picked the towns of Mahaplag and Pastrana in the development of a model for DOST Package for the Improvement of Nutrition of Young Children (DOST PINOY) because of the high incidence of malnutrition in these areas.

Nationwide, some 1,000 preschool children ages 0 to 5 years old in Leyte, Antique, Occidental Mindoro, and Iloilo have been covered by this feeding initiative. These provinces have recorded high malnutrition incidence during the latest nationwide nutrition survey conducted by FNRI.

During the culmination program in Leyte, the local officials have signed pledge of commitment to pursue the project.  They were also trained on how to get financing from both government and private sector.

The DOST, FNRI’s mother agency, is now working out to transfer the technology to local entrepreneurs and non-government organizations in order to ensure that rice-mongo nutri-packs will be available in the local market.

Luckily, Director Ocaña said that the local government units of Baybay City and Palo, Leyte have signified their interest to produce this complementary food for local consumption.

Among 0-5 year-old Filipino children, almost 2 out of 10 are underweight or an estimated 3.5 million children. These children are vulnerable to infection, slow growth and development, potentially irreversible physical problem.

The result of the feeding program in Leyte indicates that the country will be able to address malnutrition through science and technology-based interventions.