AIM HIGHER. Children in one of the villages in San Jorge, Samar in this undated photo. Samar province has the highest percentage of stunted children in Eastern Visayas, the National Nutrition Council reported on Tuesday (Dec. 6, 2022). (Photo courtesy of Gerru Pacuan Ocenar)

TACLOBAN CITY – At least 63,655 children under five years old in Eastern Visayas are stunted, the National Nutrition Council (NNC) said on Tuesday, citing monitoring reports from local government units.

The number of preschool children with stunted growth represents 14.81 percent of the total 355,004 children measured through the monitoring done by cities and towns in the region this year.

While local officials are busy dealing with the pandemic and other health concerns, fighting stunting should also be given attention by helping communities and families become aware of ways to stop this malnutrition problem, Catalino Dotollo, NNC 8 (Eastern Visayas) nutrition program coordinator, said in a phone interview on Tuesday.

“The case of stunting in the country and the region is alarming. We need to provide very crucial intervention during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life because unlike underweight, the effect of stunting is irreversible,” Dotollo said.

“Our appeal to local government units is to make families aware of how to prevent stunting, by all means, using different platforms,” he added.

Among provinces and independent cities in the region, Samar has the highest prevalence of stunting at 16.67 percent, followed by Eastern Samar (15.46 percent), Northern Samar (15.10 percent), Leyte (14.99 percent), Ormoc City (13.75 percent) Biliran (13.13 percent), Southern Leyte (11.71 percent), and Tacloban City (11.37 percent).

Thaiza Mithel Cajigas, NNC regional office development management officer, said although provinces in Samar are the top in the region, the trend has been going down over the years.

In the national survey, at least three of every 10 Filipino children are stunted with Eastern Visayas as one of the regions with a high prevalence, according to a study by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute.

Stunting is the impaired growth and development that children experience from poor nutrition, repeated infection, and inadequate psychosocial stimulation.

Stunting, especially in the first 1,000 days (from conception until the age of two) has harmful consequences for the individual and society, such as low educational performance, low adult wages, lost productivity, increased risk of non-communicable diseases, and even death. (PNA)