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National Nutrition Council Region 02 conducted the 2021 Virtual Stakeholders’ Forum on Stunting and the First 1000 Days of Life last 29 July 2021. It was attended by around 100 local nutrition committee members, members of the regional nutrition committee, members of the media, and some local chief executives via Zoom and was watched by more than 200 Facebook followers via FB livestream.

Ms. Maria Gisela M. Lonzaga, Regional Nutrition Program Coordinator of NNC Region 02 formally opened the event. She greeted the participants and the speakers before delivering the importance of the First 1000 Days of Life to address the stunting problem. She recognized the important roles of the LGUs in implementing programs, projects and activities along the First 1000 Days of Life Program.

Honorable Atty. Ronelie Valtoribio, Vice-mayor of Villaverde also delivered an inspirational message and chose to tell the story and accomplishments of Villaverde for the First 1000 Days of Life Programs and nutrition programs to inspire other LGUs to invest in nutrition.

Honorable Dakila Cua, Governor of Quirino Province, and the current President of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP), greeted everyone a happy 47th Nutrition Month Celebration. He called for the renewed commitment of every stakeholder in educating the mothers and mothers-to-be on the importance of the First 1000 Days of Life to avoid stunting and let the children achieve their full potentials. He also shared that he also prioritized the health and nutrition of his children, and her wife during her pregnancy.

For the panel discussion, RNPC Lonzaga presented the Regional State of Food Security and Nutrition. She shared that 49.8% of children 0-5months old in the region are exclusively breastfeed and 27.6% of children aged 6-23 months old meets the minimum acceptable diet. For undernutrition, children under 5 years old in the region are 20.1% underweight, 28.8% stunted and 7.1% wasted according to 2015 National Nutrition Survey. She also shared that some children are also experiencing micronutrient deficiency.

Dr. Maria Asuncion Silvestre, President of Kalusugan ng Mag-Ina, Inc. discussed the importance of focusing in the First 1000 Days of Life. She highlighted the importance of health, nutrition, and other services during the First 1000 Days of Life in achieving the proper growth and development of a child, including the cognitive and brain development. She further presented scientific researchers as evidence to support the claims on the First 1000 Days of Life being the Golden Window of Opportunity.

Ms. Maria Lourdes Vega, Executive Director of Nutrition Foundation of the Philippines presented the salient points of RA 11148 “Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Mag-Nanay Act” and its implementing rules and regulations to the participants. She also shared the journey of the RA 11148 that goes back to 2013 during the 16th Congress until becoming a law on 29 November 2018. She reiterated that the Local Government Units are the implementing arm of the law and that they should mobilize every stakeholder in planning, budgeting, and monitoring of the program.

Ms. Luningning Rhodes, District Nutrition Program Coordinator of Quirino Province, shared the Quirino First 1000 Days Program. She presented the current nutrition situation of the province and proceeded to sharing their nutrition programs, projects, activities. Among the highlights of her presentation is their strong implementation and mobilization of Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) support groups that includes breastfeeding mothers of infants. They also conduct breastmilk donation drives in the province. The strong political will and support of Gov. Cua to nutrition was vital in the success of the Quirino First 1000 Days Program. They ensure the implementation of the program from the province to the municipalities, and down to the barangay levels. They also ensure that nutrition is included in local development plans and annual investment programs of LGUs.

The plenary session was followed by an open forum for any questions or clarifications that the speakers gladly answered. Next steps included conduct of capacity development along the First 1000 Days of Life, creation of local technical working groups on First 1000 Days of Life, and scaling up nutrition actions for First 1000 Days of Life.

To end the program, Dr. Maria Concepcion Abbang, Municipal Health Officer and Municipal Nutrition Action Officer of Lal-lo, Cagayan and current President of NAOPA Cagayan Valley led the pledge of commitment joined the by participants.

The virtual event reached around 2,600 Facebook users, gained 1,100 views, and 451 reactions in the FB Live. The 2021 Virtual Stakeholders’ Forum on Stunting and the First 1000 Days of Life aimed to Facilitate the scaling up and integration of first 1000 days programs in local investment and development plans and programs. – Edzell M. Arcinue