2019 National Outstanding Municipal Nutrition Program Coordinator
Bhen Zar M. Sam
Maco, Davao de Oro
Communities thrive when leaders serve the people wholeheartedly. Such is the case of the Municipality of Maco which received the Consistent Regional Outstanding Winner in Nutrition (CROWN) Award in 2019. A first-class economic municipality, Maco is located along the coast of Davao Gulf, found about 12 kilometers from Tagum City. It has a total population of 70,930 in 2019, with 37 barangays and 19,025 households. The municipality acquires its earnings from the agricultural sector, such as crop, livestock, and poultry production.
The success of Maco’s nutrition programs can be attributed to its hardworking and reliable workforce. Mr. Bhen Zar M. Sam, or “Bentang” as he is usually called by his colleagues and friends, is the Municipal Nutrition Program Coordinator (MNPC) of Maco. With 13 outstanding years of government service, his humble beginnings as a utility worker enabled him to work his way up and become a midwife. Through the scholarship he received from the National Commission of Indigenous People (NCIP), he was able to pursue and finish Bachelor of Science in Midwifery from 2014 to 2016 and passed the licensure examination in the succeeding year. This enabled him to challenge the norm by becoming the only male midwife in the municipality. Currently, he is taking a Master of Science in Public Health at the University of Visayas. His dedication and commitment at work made him a recipient of various prestigious awards, including the Civil Service Commission Pagasa Award in 2018 for serving the health and nutrition needs of Maco’s 37 barangays.
Equipped with a passion and dedication to help people, he was designated as the Municipal Nutrition Program Coordinator in 2016. He was able to implement innovative programs and a mix of nutrition-specific and -sensitive programs in every corner of the municipality through the full support of the Municipal Nutrition Committee under the leadership of Honorable Alvera Rimando-Arancon, MNC Chair and Municipal Mayor. Through quarterly MNC Meetings, MNPC Sam updates and lobbies nutrition programs for support of the committee members.
One of the banner programs implemented by MNPC Sam is the Egg Program that aims to alleviate malnutrition among preschool children, as well as among pregnant and lactating women in Maco. Each beneficiary is provided with an egg meal within 120 days, prepared by the mothers themselves. This is to educate them in healthy and safe food preparation they can even apply at home. The program also generates additional income for small business owners as ingredients are directly bought from them. The program proved to be a success in the pilot area, hence, was replicated in all barangays in the municipality.
Aside from this, MNPC Sam also serves as the focal person in implementing the Supervised Neighborhood Play of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in all barangays of Maco. The dedicated MNPC not only oversees its implementation but also creates the menu being used for the component feeding activity of the program. Through this program, 95 out of 199 malnourished 1-2 years old children (79%) were rehabilitated, contributing to the decreased in the prevalence of malnutrition among under five children.
The Municipality of Maco puts utmost importance in the clinical approach of assessing the nutrition situation among children. MNPC Sam leads the implementation of Hemoglobin Determination Test to determine children at-risk of having iron deficiency anemia. Those children who failed the test were provided with 3-months’ worth of supplies of multi-vitamins fortified with iron, while those children with normal hemoglobin values were given multi-vitamins fortified with iron for a month only. After three months of implementation, 60 out of 72 children (83%) had improved their hemoglobin levels, proving the success and effectiveness of this program.
Another innovative activity of MNPC Sam is the Pasko Fiesta sa Nutrisyon. With the approval of Mayor Rimando-Arancon, MNPC Sam uses excess funds from nutrition programs to buy food packs, and school and medical supplies for distribution to indigent residents especially in Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas (GIDA). In addition, he uses a public-private partnership forum as a venue to advocate for the activity and generate additional funding.
MNPC Sam believes that a person equipped with adequate knowledge is a warrior ready for any battle. Thus, he always imparts his learnings from conferences, seminars, and other events to the Barangay Nutrition Scholars through monthly Barangay Nutrition Committee meetings and various capacity-building activities. For three consecutive years, the Local Government Unit was able to produce three Outstanding Barangay Nutrition Scholars; one became the 2017 National Outstanding Barangay Nutrition Scholar and is now a nutrition staff in the municipality.
Truly, the presence of a dedicated and hardworking MNPC Sam, supported by its MNC, is an indispensable ingredient in Maco’s good nutrition situation. Throughout the years, improvements in the nutritional status of children were evident; a decreasing trend in underweight, stunting, wasting, and overweight among under-five children was observed from 2017 to 2019. The municipal’s persistent and consistent delivery of quality nutrition services bears good nutrition among its constituents. And for this, MNPC Sam is conferred with the 2019 National Outstanding Municipal Nutrition Program Coordinator.
Ma. Queenie Rose G. Amosco, RND
Nutrition Officer II, Nutrition Information and Education Division
National Nutrition Council