News on Health and Nutrition in Eastern Visayas region
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Media support enlisted in the fight vs. hunger and malnutrition

October 29, 2010

TACLOBAN CITY  –  Combining the force of the media with the brarangay folks in the fight against hunger and malnutrition was the goal of the joint Anti-Hunger Mitigation Program (AHMP) Media Forum and Barangay Nutrition Scholars (BNS) Congress held at the Leyte Park Hotel Gymnasium, Tacloban City October 21, 2010.

The anti-hunger program of the government dubbed as AHMP was presented to a combined audience of some 20 media practitioners in this city and more than 1,200 Barangay Nutrition Scholars (BNS) from the 41 municipalities of the Leyte Province.

Organizers put the twin problems of hunger and malnutrition to scrutiny, stressing what the government is doing to address them, and the role that the BNSs play and what the media can do in fighting them.

National Nutrition Council (NNC) Region 8 chief Carina Santiago said, “With the combined support of these two influential groups, more Filipinos especially at the grassroots level will have increased knowledge on AHMP and good nutrition, and will rally behind the fight.”

The BNSs are seen as the champions of nutrition at the grassroots, doing the tedious task of children’s weight monitoring, promoting and teaching mothers and caregivers proper nutrition including exclusive breastfeeding, and helping implement nutrition projects such as backyard vegetable gardening and supplemental feeding. These tasks oftentimes interfere with their own domestic responsibilities. Having very minimal allowance, the BNSs are purely doing voluntary work, it was learned.

Discussions during the joint Media Forum and BNS Congress primarily focused on the AHMP framework wherein the problem is attacked both from the supply and demand side. Banner projects of AHMP include Food-for-School Program, Gulayan sa Masa at Paaralan, Barangay Bagsakan, Tindahan Natin – all aimed at increasing food supply.  Strategies to improve food delivery from the production sites to the market are also being implemented by constructing more farm-to-market roads, ports, irrigation and RORO facilities.

Also a priority action of the government now is to put more money in poor people’s pockets for them to be able to buy food.  This is being realized through microfinancing, and intensive job and livelihood generating projects of different government agencies.

Discussions in the afternoon session shifted to the importance of good nutrition and how the BNSs can help promote it at the barangay level.

NNC Executive Director Asst. Secretary Ma. Bernardita Flores delivered the keynote speech of Health Secretary Francisco Duque, who was in Luzon to attend to the outbreak of diseases in flood-stricken areas. Also present during the affair were Director Leo Cañeda of the Department of Agriculture, Director Edgardo Gonzaga of the Department of Health, Leyte Vice Governor Mimiet Bagulaya, Directors Leticia Corillo of the DSWD, Carina Santiago of the NNC and Romeo Quiza of NIA, and NFA Manager Ben Marta.

Dir. Cañeda said hunger is not only caused by lack of food due to poverty, but by lack of food supply as well.  He said even if there’s money to buy food if there is not enough food in the market, people will still go hungry.  He also stressed the importance of promoting good nutrition since it will teach people to buy the right food.  Managing population growth is also a must because large family size exacerbates the problem.

The BNS Congress has become an annual tradition of the province of Leyte as a venue for putting into limelight the unsung heroes of nutrition, the BNSs.  This year’s gathering sent them home packed with greater understanding and appreciation of nutrition, and many of them also bringing home raffle prizes donated by the members of the Regional Anti-Hunger Task Force as well as from the private sector.  This initiative of the provincial government of Leyte, with Governor Petilla on top and with the Provincial Nutrition Action Officer, Melchora Cawile as focal person, is worth replicating in other provinces.

According to the NNC regional chief, Carina Santiago, after the day-long joint learning and sharing activity, it is expected that the fight against hunger and malnutrition in the province will continue to scale up to greater heights.