Senator Sherwin Gatchalian (File photo)

MANILA – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian is urging the next administration to address stunting among Filipino children, which has long-term consequences on their growth and development.

Gatchalian made this call as the outgoing Duterte administration seeks a USD178.1-million loan from the World Bank to address Filipino children's stunted growth.

The loan will fund a proposed multi-sectoral project that will be led by the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

Citing the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Gatchalian emphasized that stunting affects the cognitive development of children which can be seen in their performance at school.

He said nine out of 10 Filipino children aged 10 cannot read or understand a simple story, which translates to learning poverty of 90.5 percent.

According to a 2021 World Bank (WB) report entitled "Undernutrition in the Philippines: Scale, Scope, and Opportunities for Nutrition Policy and Programming", around 30 percent of children in the Philippines under the age of five are stunted or are too short for one’s age.

For Gatchalian, the incoming administration should ensure the effective implementation of Republic Act 11148 or the Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Mag-Nanay Act, also known as the First 1,000 Days Law.

The law, which Gatchalian co-authored, seeks to scale up nutrition interventions in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life.

Stunted growth accompanies severe irreversible physical and cognitive damage. WHO pointed out that stunting is an irreversible outcome of inadequate nutrition and repeated bouts of infection during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life.

“Mahalagang tutukan natin ang kalusugan at nutrisyon ng mga bata mula sa panahong ipinagbubuntis sila, lalo na’t malaki ang epekto nito sa kanilang kakayahang matuto. Kailangang tiyakin natin na may sapat na partisipasyon at kakayahan ang ating mga komunidad, kabilang ang mga lokal na pamahalaan, upang pangalagaan ang kalusugan ng kabataang Pilipino (It's important that we focus on the health and nutrition of children starting in their mother's womb, especially because it has a big effect on their capacity to learn. We should make sure that our communities have enough participation and capability, together with the local government, in order to ensure the good health of Filipino children),” Gatchalian said in a statement on Thursday. (PR)