New report: Child stunting costs Philippines economy $7bn in a year, more than triple the cost of damage inflicted by all 15 disasters to hit the nation last year

Tuesday 30 August 2016

Rise in undernutrition sees 1 in 3 children in the Philippines affected by stunting

New research released today reveals an alarming increase in the number of children in the Philippines suffering from stunting, a phenomenon that cost the national economy nearly $7bn in 2013, or almost three percent of GDP.

“The increase in childhood stunting, up 10 percent in just two years, is the largest increase in the past quarter century, meaning 1 in 3 children in the Philippines now suffer from it. This negative nutritional trend is particularly worrying in a country that is making strong economic progress and growing its economy at an average of about 6 percent per year,” Save the Children Philippines Country Director Ned Olney said.

“On a typical day, 95 children in the Philippines will die because of undernutrition, which has become a silent killer. This shouldn’t be happening here in 2016. What this research shows is that malnutrition is holding back economic progress and keeping the Philippines less competitive. Everybody is paying the price of malnutrition.”

Save the Children’s social and economic impact study, Cost of Hunger: Philippines, calls for:

  • More targeted nutrition support for the poorest and most marginalised groups
  • Improved data collection to steer future nutrition planning
  • Greater investment in nutrition interventions for pregnant and lactating mothers and babies in their first 1000 days

“The report’s findings underscore the importance of a child’s first 1000 days of life, when they are most susceptible to stunting and most in need of good nutrition,” Mr Olney said.

Children suffering from undernutrition or stunting have increased risks of contracting diseases like acute diarrheal syndrome, acute respiratory infection and anemia, while children, especially those with severe undernutrition, are more likely to die from illnesses caused by complications.

But Mr Olney said preventing undernutrition wasn’t just about addressing a health crisis. “We must not underestimate the financial impact poor nutrition and stunting has on the Philippines economy too,” he said.

“Our research shows that in 2013 alone, stunting cost the Philippines economy almost 3 percent of its GDP – a truly staggering amount. Stunting doesn’t just impact those who directly suffer from it, everyone is affected.”

In 2013 more than 47,000 students in primary and secondary school in the Philippines repeated grade levels due to under five stunting, making up about 14 percent of all grade repeaters.

Save the Children has been working in the Philippines since 1981. The aid agency’s nutrition work includes training frontline health and nutrition workers on life-saving care for newborns and their mothers, promoting exclusive breastfeeding, managing community and school-based health and nutrition programs and promoting reproductive health to adolescents.

Early this year, Save the Children also launched a Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) project, which aims to treat and rehabilitate children with severe and moderate acute malnutrition in an urban setting. This is the first ever CMAM project to be implemented in Metro Manila – previous government and multi-sector efforts were carried out in Visayas and Mindanao.

For interview requests, contact April Sumaylo, Media Manager for Save the Children Philippines, at April.Sumaylo@savethechildren.org or +63 917 301 1240

Notes to editors

  • The cost of undernutrition in the Philippines in 2013 was calculated at PhP328 billion, which comprises PhP166.5bn of lost income as a result of lower levels of education achieved by the workforce who suffered from stunting; PhP160 from lost productivity in the same period due to over 830,000 premature deaths among children under five years old resulting from undernutrition; and about PhP1.23 billion to cover costs for grade repetitions.
  • The US Dollar conversion of the estimated cost of undernutrition was computed using the US Dollar and Philippine Peso exchange rate of US$ 1.00 = PhP 47.00.
  • There were 15 disasters in the Philippines in 2015 costing the economy a combined US$1.9bn, according to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR). See here: www.unisdr.org/files/47791_infograph2015disastertrendsfinal.pdf
  • The report also found a marked increase in childhood undernutrition leading up to 2015, with 21 percent of children now affected across the country – well above the global target of 13 percent. 

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