By Macon Araneta i FilAm Star Correspondent

Citing the estimated PHP 328 billion a year losses incurred by the Philippines due to the impact of stunting,  Health Sec. Francisco Duque III led the call for the renewal of commitment for nutrition in the First 1000 Days as he  signed the Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act 11148.

President Rodrigo Duterte signed RA 11148 or the Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Mag-Nanay Act last January.

Duque, also the chair of the Governing Board of the National Nutrition Council (NNC), was alarmed by the high level of child stunting in the country with a rate of 33.4 percent among under-five children.

The NNC and the DoH organized the forum Nutrition in the First 1000 Days: Integrate and Scale Up! in partnership with UNICEF, Save the Children Philippines, Nutrition International and the Korean International Cooperation Agency.

During the forum, the provincial nutrition action officers from all over the country together with national government agencies, international and local development partners identified ways to integrate and scale-up nutrition and related interventions in the First 1000 Days.

The First 1000 Days, which starts from conception until the child reaches two years of age, is considered globally as the golden window of opportunity to build an individual’s foundation for physical growth, mental development, health, and economic productivity. It is one of the main strategic thrusts of the Philippine Plan of Action (PPAN) 2017-2022 to reduce child stunting in the country.

Republic Act 11148 is an important legislation as it institutionalizes the programs and services for adolescents, pregnant women, lactating women and children 0-24 months on health, nutrition, early learning and social services.

As a prelude to the ceremonial signing, Quezon Province 4th District Congresswoman Angelina Tan, who co-sponsored the law, delivered an inspirational message. Assistant Sec. of Health Dr. Maria Rosario Vergeire presented salient features of the law and IRR.

The event also witnessed the turn-over of the Global and Regional State of Food Security and Nutrition report prepared jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP), by  Jose Luis Fernandez, the Representative of the FAO in the Philippines to the Philippine government. Dr. Martin Parreño, Programme and Policy Officer of the UN World Food Programme, presented the Fill the Nutrient Gap Analysis study which identified barriers faced by Filipinos in accessing and consuming healthy and nutritious foods.

A discussion on the Multisectoral Integration of Nutrition Action and Partnerships by the UN Network for Nutrition Director and Global Coordinator Purnima Kashyap followed, pointed ways to address challenges of scaling up nutrition in a multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder approach.

A plenary presentation on the different models of First 1000 Days programs currently being implemented served as a one of the forum’s main highlights.

Representatives from the NNC, UNICEF, Save the Children, Nutrition International, Quezon Province, and Malabon City each discussed their program’s objectives, strategies, design and components, which allowed a view of commonalities and differences.

Picking up from the plenary discussion, a workshop session on Moving on for a scaled-up nationwide First 1000 Days program and the implementation of RA 11148 followed. It aimed to identify priority actions to be pursued at the national and local levels to implement RA 11148 effectively.

An exhibit on various resource materials on the First 1000 Days allowed the participants to see and appreciate the efforts of various agencies and LGUs such as manuals and modules for nutrition education, sample ordinances, program briefers, and video clips.