In spite of the Philippines’ emerging economy, high child stunting levels persist (33.4 percent), child wasting levels (7 percent) leave no room for complacency and child overweight doubled between 2003 and 2015 (Global Nutrition Report, 2018). Adult overweight and obesity levels have also risen steeply and less than half of infants are exclusively breastfed during the first six months of a life, an essential nutrition action that safeguards their nutrition during infancy and from becoming overweight/obese later in life (GNR, 2018). The country’s vulnerability to typhoons and earthquakes further complicate the situation, as do the number of isolated and disadvantaged areas in view of its geography.
While the Philippines is facing multiple burdens of malnutrition, it has in no way shied away from the challenge. It remains deeply committed to the SUN Movement and has taken exemplary action to combat malnutrition at all levels from the President of the Republic to Local Government Units (LGUs). The UN agencies engaged in the UN Network (UNN) have increasingly aligned their efforts on nutrition to help tackle these multifaceted issues effectively and holistically. The country’s UNN, comprised of FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO, has provided technical assistance to government and advocated for nutrition-smart legislation and fiscal policy. One recent advancement took place on 2 May 2019, with the signing of the implementing rules and regulations Republic Act (IRR) 11148 also known as the “Kalusugan at Nutrition ng Mag-Nanay Act.” The law calls for the sustained provision of nutrition interventions through pre- and post-natal health services during the critical 1000 days period from conception to a child’s second birthday. It also targets adolescent girls and women of child-bearing age and includes provisions for the breastfeeding-friendly workplaces. The new legislation attracted CNN media coverage, created a buzz in the social media and was an excellent advocacy moment to remind the public and policymakers about the hefty consequences of malnutrition, yet high return on investment.