Socioeconomic Issue on Spotlight
Ending hunger and improving nutrition are primary concerns for global development. Goal 2 of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals seeks to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture. The World Health Organization defines malnutrition as “deficiencies or excesses in nutrient intake, imbalance of essential nutrients or impaired nutrient utilization”. Malnutrition in all its forms remains a challenge in the Philippines and across the world. A World Bank report (Mbuya et al. 2021) shows it ranks fifth among countries in the East Asia and Pacific region with the highest prevalence of stunting and is among the ten countries in the world with the highest number of stunted children.
One in every two Filipino children under five years old suffers from stunting or having a low height for one's age. Among the leading causes of stunting are poor nutrition and micronutrient deficiencies, especially in teenage pregnancies (Herrin 2017). Also, the decline in the quality of nutrient consumption of children aged 6 to 23 months is another factor that contributes to childhood stunting.
A study by Laput and Go (2022) supports the literature that maternal employment increases the likelihood of stunting among children. However, the results also show a decrease in the likelihood of child stunting if employed mothers have a higher level of education. Moreover, the probability of stunting increases with the number of children in the household and decreases with more income; thus, the financial resources gained from working may augment food spending for the household.
Ulep (2021) stressed that the economic and health consequences of chronic malnutrition in the country are “too enormous and extreme” and need critical and urgent attention. He explained that undernutrition during pregnancy, child nutritional deficiency, and repeated infection or disease are some of the stresses that increase the risk of stunting.
Moreover, he emphasized that “improving the nutritional status of children is critical and should be the front and center of health and economic policy dialogue.” He noted the importance of adequate and sustained public financing for nutrition and health and urged for the implementation of the critical provisions of the Universal Health Care Act, particularly the expansion of the comprehensive primary care benefit and the creation of an integrated healthcare network. Another recommendation is for the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation to pay and incentivize the quality and uptake of health and nutrition services (e.g., fee for service for child vaccination, iron supplementation, and ante-natal care visits).
Uy et al. (2022) found that the Philippines invests less than one percent of its gross domestic product in nutrition programs that can prevent stunting. The total national-level government expenditures for nutrition from 2017 to 2019 were estimated at PHP 493 billion, which was only 7.9 percent of the total government expenditures. The country has large investments in households and maternal health but “lack investments in child health care and factors at home that directly determine child dietary intake.” Moreover, the authors noted that the government has investments in households, mothers, and treatment options when a child is already malnourished, and supplementary feeding after the children are irreversibly stunted, but there are no visible investments in the first 1,000 days of life, which is crucial to prevent stunting.
SERP-P has resources tackling malnutrition. Below are some of them:
For more studies, simply type "nutrition”, “malnutrition”, “stunting”, “wasting”, and other related keywords in the search box of the SERP-P website.
 https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/35530/9781464817014.pdf (accessed on June 23, 2022)