The Joining Forces Alliance (JFA), a global alliance of child-focused international non-government organizations advocating for a renewed commitment of governments to achieve the rights of children calls the attention of the Philippine government on the rising number of Filipinos, children included, who experienced hunger amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In the survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) in May 2020, Filipinos experiencing hunger doubled to 16.7 percent compared to 8.8 percent in December 2019, accounting for around 4.2 million individuals.
The JFA is alarmed and calls for urgent government action to halt the increase in the number of children becoming undernourished due to hunger and food insecurity brought about by the loss of income and livelihoods among parents and guardians resulting from COVID-19 quarantine restrictions.
According to a UNICEF study released in 2019, 95 children die from malnutrition in the Philippines every day, and 28 out of 1,000 Filipino children do not reach the age of 5. Meanwhile, a third of Filipino children are stunted, which can be permanent and even fatal when it occurs beyond 2 years of age. The World Health Organization (WHO) also published a study that showed being underweight is a predisposing factor to 45% to 52% of deaths among under-5 children. During emergencies and disasters, when hunger is more acute, children especially those from marginalized and vulnerable groups are twice more likely to die due to preventable diseases such as diarrhea and pneumonia with undernutrition as a predisposing condition. Children with disabilities are two to three times more likely to be malnourished.
The WHO estimates that 16,000 Filipino young children die each year because of suboptimal breastfeeding and inappropriate complementary feeding practices. Infants who are not exclusively breastfed are prone to undernutrition and are 14 times more likely to die compared to those who are breastfed. However, even breastfeeding practices are affected during emergencies when families and communities are displaced, and breast milk substitutes are sometimes distributed as part of food or relief packs. Children, along with pregnant and lactating women as well as adolescents, suffer the most from rising hunger in the country as their physical requirements for adequate food and proper nutrition must be met to ensure their survival and health during the pandemic.
Considering the present health crisis, the JFA calls for the continuation of health, nutrition, and other essential care and services for children, along with pregnant and lactating mothers, and adolescents who suffer the most from rising hunger in the country as their physical requirements for adequate food and proper nutrition must be met to ensure their survival and health during the pandemic.
It is in this light that, we, the Joining Forces Alliance, appeal to the government to support continued access of children, pregnant and lactating mothers, and adolescents to health, nutrition, and other essential care and services during the pandemic.
To minimize risks for children from the infection by:
To sustain and even intensify the delivery of health programmes and services, specifically by
As a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children, the Philippine government is mandated to uphold the rights of children to survival, development, protection, and participation. In this crucial period of the COVID-19 pandemic, we appeal to the government to undertake concrete actions to prioritize the health and survival of our children.