Virac kicks off Nutrition Month 2020 CelebrationVirac, Catanduanes. Presidential Decree 491 in 1974 declared the month of July as Nutrition Month to raise awareness and influence the public on the importance of nutrition. Celebrations in the past four decades were carried out festively with various activities that span the whole month of July.   This year 2020, in its 46th-year celebration, as the nation is faced with an extraordinary situation, where program implementation and social events are restricted brought by COVID-19 Pandemic, the Municipal Nutrition Committee of Virac, Catanduanes led by its Chair, Mayor  Sinforoso M. Sarmiento Jr. found no reason to stop the celebration, guided by health protocols and following minimum health standards, on this year’s theme “Batang Pinoy, SANA TALL . . .  Iwas Stunting, SAMA ALL!  Iwas ALL din sa COVID 19.”   Facilitated by the Municipal Nutrition Action Officer (MNAO), Jocelyn U. Quinones together with the Barangay Nutrition Committees (BNCs) and Barangay Nutrition Scholars (BNSs), all the 63 barangays held the simultaneous hanging of Nutrition Month streamers in conspicuous places around the municipality and Barangay Halls in the early morning of July 1. This will be followed by a month-long nutrition activity, all aimed at improving the nutritional status of children of Virac.

NAOs MeetingCOVID 19 pandemic has brought many changes nowadays to everyone’s lives – to children and adults alike, all coping to shift to new normal. Meetings and other activities requiring social gatherings continue to be prohibited. The National Nutrition Council Regional Office V (NNC ROV) is among these agencies which are finding ways to continue to deliver nutrition programs and services amidst quarantine measures.  A first-ever on-line meeting of Nutrition Action Officers at the provincial and municipal level in the Province of Catanduanes was held last 26 May 2020 to discuss the current status of the Early Childhood Care and Development in the First 1000 Days (ECCD F1K). Plan for the resumption of halted activities due to the imposition of enhanced then later general community quarantine (ECQ) was among the agenda of the meeting. 

Gathering all NAOs of the province altogether in a meeting was difficult as each was busy attending to their LGU’s COVID-19 response.  But this online meeting was an opportunity to see how each was doing amid this crisis, at the comfort of their own office or home.  Unfortunately, only NAOs from Bagamanoc, Gigmoto, Pandan, Viga, and Virac together with those from the province and NNC RO V made it to the online meeting. Everyone seemed physically well as they appeared on video during the meeting, with much enthusiasm as shown during the training of trainers on Idol ko Si Nanay back in April and May last year.  All of them said that several sessions of the Idol classes at the barangay levels had been done but had to be stopped because of the Luzon-wide lockdown. The bidding process for the food production component was likewise delayed. How to proceed with the program when restrictions have been relaxed, but still with limited movement is now a major concern of the group.

NGOs in Bicol lend a helping hand to fight malnutrition and promote breastfeedingTabaco City. With the Enhanced Community Quarantine in effect since March 16, many daily wage earners have experienced many difficulties in meeting their daily food needs due to low or no daily income earned. With low income, there is a big possibility for the members of the family to reduce food intake, resulting to limited nutrients which greatly affect the health of everyone especially those who are most vulnerable – children, pregnant and lactating women, senior citizens and differently-abled group. Children must have enough nutrients in their body for proper growth and development. Pregnant and lactating women should be healthy for their infants to be healthy. Senior citizens have weak immune systems and are vulnerable to diseases.  While Provincial and Local Government Units and National Government Agencies continue to help those in need, various Non-Government Organizations also decided to lend a helping hand.

Two NGOs in Bicol Region extend their help to the undernourished children as well as the pregnant and lactating mothers. One of these is the Destiny Church Bicol which initiated Project “Istorya Ko, Tabang Ko”. The education of the children was compromised during this crisis, so they started an online story-reading challenge to help children learn. Various individuals uploaded videos of them reading children's stories which can be accessible on their Facebook Page and YouTube Channel. Moreover, Destiny Church Bicol also donated food packs to undernourished children in 4 barangays in Tabaco City with the help of Tabaco City Nutrition Committee. 138 undernourished children benefited from the food packs given that included fruits, eggs, chicken, macaroni pasta, mongo, cereal drink, bread, and biscuits. With this project, they help educate children at home and provide nutritious food too.

hypertension infographic 005 web 1Hypertension Awareness Month was among the health advocacies promoted nationwide in the month of May by the Department of Health. The agency reminds the general public on the importance of regular blood pressure monitoring given the fact that it now affects the younger population.   Hypertension can be hereditary but there are also modifiable risk factors that are lifestyle-related.  The public is advised to avoid smoking, have low salt, and low cholesterol diet, maintain ideal body weight, and have adequate exercise.                                                What is hypertension?                                  Hypertension is a lifestyle disease wherein the blood moves at a higher pressure compared to normal. It is also called “silent killer” as individuals may not be able to know they have elevated blood pressure unless they are checked by health professionals. Several factors including unhealthy diet, obesity, smoking, lack of exercise, and other existing condition may cause an individual to suffer from hypertension. If hypertension is left uncontrolled, it may lead to several diseases such as heart failure wherein the heart is enlarged and fails to supply blood to the body and stroke wherein elevated blood pressure causes the blood vessels in the brain to clog.

Image 2Across the country, local governments are at the forefront to cope with the blows this pandemic has brought to health and nutrition well-being of the population. All have initiated distributing food commodities (either ready to cook or fresh vegetables), vitamins, hygiene kits, among others to the general public and the more vulnerable groups of children, pregnant and lactating mothers, senior citizens and persons with disability.

In Bicol, the local government of the Municipality of Guinobatan, Albay, through the Rural Health Unit (RHU) and Nutrition Office did not cease to deliver services to children, pregnant and elderly, cognizant of the dire need of the groups, in this time of emergencies. The office mobilized and dispatched health and nutrition teams to bring essential services to all of the   barangay health centers, supervised by the Rural Health Midwives together with the nurses and midwives under the HRH NDP and RHMPP program of Department of Health. They are all guided by an Office Memo dated March 24, 2020 from the Municipal Health Officer on the mobilization and utilization of micronutrient supplements from DOH.

Prieto Diaz Sorsogon embraces EO 51 gives away fresh Soya milkFive hundred fifty-one children, 6-59 months old, pregnant, and lactating, from the 23 barangays in the Local Government Unit (LGU) of Prieto Diaz, Sorsogon received freshly produced soya milk beginning 23 April 2020.  This was Prieto Diaz’s action in the midst of possible food insecurity brought about by enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). Distribution of this nutritious, high protein milk provided the much-needed protein and other nutrients to children and mothers of Prieto Diaz.

More often than not, children are among the vulnerable sector least considered in both normal and emergency times. Likewise, nutrition has taken a backseat in governance and emergency responses, more so if leaders are confused or ignore laws particularly the EO 51 or Milk Code. EO 51 prohibits the donation of formula milk even during emergency times. In just the early period of implementation of ECQ, complaints of not receiving food packs started to arise, more from needy families with younger children. Many attempted but were stopped, though there were still few who were able to distribute formula milk. Such issue if taken placidly, could result to more malnourished children, particularly among the younger ones.