Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Feeding our future

Feeding our future
Cebu Daily News, Editorial
July 14, 2010

“With enough and the right kind of food, a baby’s normal weight is ensured,” reads the theme of Nutrition Month this July 2010.

In these parts—where Fire Prevention Month (March) sees a spike in fires and Environment Month (June) reminds people that it’s again payback time to a degraded ecology—that aphorism prescribes rather than describes.

Emma Gaviola, assistant nutrition coordinator, revealed early this month that malnutrition continues to hound Cebu City’s children.

The city’s child malnutrition rate has gone down to 4.32 percent this year from 5.60 percent last year.

That still translates to 35,739 malnourished kids.

Ermita, a depressed barangay in the north district posted 2010’s highest malnutrition prevalence among 130,383 city children below the age of six.

Child malnutrition also plagues barangays Mambaling, Buot Taup, Inayawan, Duljo-Fatima, Sapangdaku, Pamutan, Agsungot, Pahina San-Nicolas and Punta Princesa.

Gaviola attributed the poor nourishment of children not to scarce food but to congestion (Ermita is a magnet for indigents seeking a better life in the city), lack of sanitation and neglectful parenting—many parents, Gaviola says, are engaged in tong-its, mahjong and other forms of gambling.

It’s not entirely innacurate to count these conditions as easy excuses for the city government’s failure to stamp out malnutrition.

After all, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama promised to raise the allotment for nutrition in his planned request for a P200-million supplemental budget only after learning that the city placed fifth in a National Nutrition Council ranking of Central Visayas cities with high malnutrition.

But Gaviola is also on point when she said that fathers and mothers should not consign child-rearing to the government.

With Joelito Baclayon, city agriculturist, seeing a bumper harvest from the hillylands in October, groups like the Philippine Business for Social Progress transferring organic farming technology to food producers and more barangay composting facilities a potential source of nutrients to replenish our eroded farmland topsoil, there’s just no reason able-bodied parents can’t work to earn sufficient, nutritious daily bread.

This is where the government can step creatively in its parens patria role to care for children.

The new program to encourage indigents to clean their surroundings in exchange for food may be a good start. Aside from reducing the probability of floods, it would shelter children from dirt-borne diseases that trump healthful nutrition.

But with Gaviola’s report, gambling turns out to be also a formidable front in the fight against hunger and poor nutrition.

Newly appointed Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo launched a probe against big-time jueteng.

Local government should also crack down on gambling that siphons away families’ food budget.

Persistent childhood malnutrition and hunger in general makes the late national artist for film Fernando Poe Jr. sound prophetic when he said: “The problem of the Filipino is breakfast, lunch and supper.”