MANILA, Oct. 23 (Xinhua) -- One in three Filipino children are stunted or too short for their age because they are not getting the right nutrition they need to grow well from the time they are in the womb until they turn two years old, a UN study has said.
"This disturbing condition is irreversible," warned the global report titled, The State of the World's Children: Children, Food and Nutrition, released by the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) this month.
"Filipino children are increasingly suffering from poor diets, inadequate nutrition and food systems that are failing them," the report said, adding that "one in three Filipino children under five years old are stunted, which means they are too short for their age, while roughly 7 percent of children are too thin for their height.
It warned that increased vulnerability to disease due to poor health-seeking behavior, incomplete immunization, poor hygiene and care practices, and inadequate diet -- both in quantity and quality -- causes undernutrition in early childhood.
Oyun Dendevnorov, UNICEF Philippines Representative, said the undernutrition facts in the Philippines are disturbing -- one in three 12 to 23-month-old children suffer from anaemia while one in three children are irreversibly stunted by the age of two.
On the other hand, the report said overweight and obesity among Filipino children is steadily increasing, with 1 in 10 adolescents being obese from wrong eating habits.
"Obesity among Filipino adolescents has almost tripled in the last 15 years as processed foods high in salt, fats and sugar are becoming more accessible and affordable," the report said, adding that "a tenth of Filipino adolescents are now overweight."
"The triple burden of undernutrition, hidden hunger and overweight poses serious threats to child health," Dendevnorov said.
Dendevnorov said UNICEF is supporting the Philippine government in implementing the Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition (PPAN) "to address the causes of unhealthy eating in all its forms."
Indeed, the Philippine government recognizes that malnutrition remains a significant public health concern in the country. Stunting is now seen as one of the major impediments to human development and is recognized as a well-established marker of poor child development.
Azucena Dayanghirang, executive director of the Philippines' National Nutrition Council, said the council is exhausting all efforts to address malnutrition in the Philippines.
Already, she said a six-year action plan has been developed to address to focus on the first 1,000 days of life, which refers to the period of pregnancy up to the first 2 years of the child.
"This is a window of golden opportunity wherein key health, nutrition, early education and related services should be delivered to ensure optimum physical and mental development of a child," she said.