RO9 breastfeedingOn March 23, 2020, the National Nutrition Cluster issued guidelines for Local Government Unit’s (LGU) nutrition action relative to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. It has 19 recommendations to all LGUs, non-government organizations and other civic-oriented organizations on the provision of nutrition services to all COVID-19 affected populace. Part of these guidelines is the continued promotion, protection and support of Exclusive Breastfeeding for 0-6 months old infants. In accordance to Executive Order No. 51 or the Milk Code, National Nutrition Cluster reminds the LGUs that breastmilk substitutes such as powdered milk, infant milk formula and other milk products; feeding bottles, teats, commercial baby food donations are permitted and should not be included in the distribution of emergency food packs.

Exclusive breastfeeding is one of the essential actions for infant’s development and survival. The mother’s breastmilk is the sole source of nutrition of 0-6 months old infant because it contains all the nutrients and antibodies needed to support the development and immune system of the baby. When an infant is exclusively breastfed, no other liquids (even water) or solids should be given to the first 6 months of the infant’s life aside from breastmilk with the exception of oral rehydration solutions of vitamins, minerals and medicines. In line with this, mothers should observe the proper nutrition during the first 1,000 days of the baby’s life which includes consuming healthy foods and observing healthy lifestyle during the stage of the mother’s pregnancy and lactation. Subsequently, to meet the increasing nutritional requirements of above 6 months old infants, mothers should give nutritionally adequate and safe complementary food while continuing breastfeeding for up to 2 years or beyond to achieve the optimal growth, development and health.

RO9 AnnouncementOn December 31 last year, Chinese authorities alerted the World Health Organization (WHO) of several cases of unusual pneumonia in Wuhan, a port of 11 million people in the central Hubei province. Eventually, it caused an outbreak of a novel strain of coronavirus causing severe illness, which was subsequently named SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19. As of writing, there are 219,243 positive cases, and 8,967 of which died due to this virus, while 85,745 already recovered worldwide. On 30 January 2020, the Philippines reported its first case of COVID-19 in the country with a 38-year old female Chinese national. On March 7, the first local transmission of COVID-19 was confirmed.

With the increasing number of local COVID-19 cases, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte enacted Proclamation No. 922 declaring a State of Public Health Emergency throughout the Philippines on 8 March 2020. Since it was noted that there was a continues increase in the number affected  on 16 March 2020, President Duterte enacted Proclamation No. 929 declaring a State of Calamity throughout the Philippines and in line with this, Hon. Maria Isabella Climaco, Mayor of Zamboanga City enacted Executive Order No. BC 533-2020 declaring an Enhanced Community Quarantine in Zamboanga City to help prevent the spread of the pandemic.

Colorectal Cancer Awareness MonthOur colon is the absorber of water and salt from the remaining food residue after it passes through the small intestine. The waste products that are left after it goes through the colon proceeds to the rectum where it is stored until it passes out of the body through the anus. Any blockage or obstruction such as polyps in the colon or rectum would affect the process of digestion of food in the body which may result discomfort to an individual. To emphasize the importance of the colon and rectum in the body, March of every year is observed as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month that aims to provide better understanding of colorectal cancer and create awareness about the importance of its early detection and cure.

Cancer starts when cells in the body start to grow out of control. Cells in any part of the body can become cancer, and can spread to the other areas of the body. Colorectal cancer (CRC) or also known as colon or rectal cancer depending where the cancer starts, is a type of cancer when there is growth or polyps in the inner lining of the colon or rectum, or may spread to both. Most common symptoms that can be seen in an individual with CRC are changes in bowel habits, diarrhea or constipation, blood in feces making stools look black, pain and bloating in the abdomen, fatigue, unexplained weight loss and iron deficiency in men and women after menopause. According to the recent data from the Philippine Society of Gastroenterology, there are over 3,000 new cases of colorectal cancer among Filipinos annually, of these 3,000, over 2,000 Filipinos die based on the reported cases.

RO9 RTWG MeetingThe National Nutrition Council Regional Office 09 convenes the members of the Regional Technical Working Group-Nutrition Evaluation Team (RTWG-NET) during its 1st Quarter Meeting held at L’ Meridian Suites, Zamboanga City on 13 March 2020. The objectives of the meeting which was presided by OIC-NPC Nimfa D. Ekong of NNC RO IX were to present and discuss the following: 2019 OPT Plus results, Plans for 2020 Nutrition Month Celebration, Re-orient the members on the updated MELLPI Pro tool and to be  updated on the teenage pregnancy in Region 09. During the meeting social distancing was observed among the members to comply with the directive to help prevent the spread of COVID19.

Ms. Zhalimar Jakaria-Patulada presented the 2019 OPT Plus results wherein its coverage registered at 83.0% weighing a total of 338,479 out of the estimated 407,726 0-59 months old children comparing to last year’s coverage of 75.0%. The province of Zamboanga del Sur yielded the highest prevalence of underweight, stunted, and overweight and obese children with 6.7%, 12.6%, and 2.6% respectively, while Zamboanga del Norte yielded the highest prevalence of wasted with 4.4%. Overall, the City of Dipolog has the lowest prevalence of underweight, stunted, wasted, overweight and obese children with 0.4%, 0.5%, 0.2% and 0.1% respectively. On the other hand, it was noted that Pagadian City has the lowest OPT Plus coverage of almost only 40% which can be attributed to the non-submission of reports by the Barangay Nutrition Scholars.

NNC IX SODOHRAWalang nanay ang dapat namamatay habang nagbibigay ng buhay.” (No mother should die while giving birth). This was the powerful statement made by Dr. Emilia P. Monicimpo, Regional Director of Department of Health (DOH) Region IX on 05 March 2020 during her 1st ever State of the DOH Regional Address (SODOHRA) held at Grand Astoria Hotel, Zamboanga City which was attended by Local Chief Executives (LCEs), heads of agencies, other leaders, and officers. Key personalities like Undersecretary Abdullah B. Dumama and POPCOM Executive Director Juan Antonio A. Perez were the special guests during the occasion. Dr. Monicimpo relayed in her speech DOH Region IX’s achievements and strategies in the health system of the region. Likewise, she also mentioned difficult challenges in the region, one of which is the high prevalence of stunting. She called on to the Local Government Units (LGUs) to look into this problem.

Dr. Monicimpo was inspired to share her experiences when she was still the Municipal Health Officer (MHO) in providing the best health care services to the communities. She said she had the opportunity and the privilege to visit three families, two of which of maternal deaths, and one family of three members who were diagnosed with tuberculosis. To make the story short, one maternal death was caused by the refusal of rural health workers to accept the mother when she is about to give birth and the other was caused by poor relay of information by the health worker. While under these circumstances, Dr. Monicimpo reminded the health workers to be careful on how they communicate and to show compassion despite all the stress. It is still the responsibility of the health workers to educate and properly communicate correct information to their clients for them to understand and abide by the process.

NNC IX Rabies MonthDogs and cats are man’s best friend. They bring joy and vitality to the household of their owners and it is dreading to know that the pets you adore might be a threat to the lives of your household members or to other people. A dog or cat bite might be infected with rabies and a lot of people are unaware of the risks from this deadly disease. As a response to the lack of awareness on rabies, by virtue of Executive Order No. 84 series of 1999, yearly the month of March is declared as Rabies Awareness Month with the theme “Rabies ay iwasan. Alagang aso’t pusa ay pabakunahan”. This year’s theme focuses on the importance of vaccinating the pets against rabies and educating the public of the risks of this disease to obtain a rabies-free country.

As defined by World Health Organization (WH0), rabies is an infectious viral disease that is fatal which affects the nerves and brain. It spreads to people through bites or scratches of an infected animal. Transmission of rabies may occur when the infectious material usually from saliva comes into direct contact with the victim’s fresh skin lesions. According to the Department of Health, rabies is estimated to cause 55, 000 deaths yearly worldwide, with about 56% of the cases occurring in Asia and 43.6% in Africa. In 2019, a total of 32,661 cases of people being bitten by animals were recorded in Zamboanga Peninsula between January and September: 12,101 of which were from Zamboanga City; 7,473 from Zamboanga del Norte; 6,141 from Zamboanga del Sur; 5,893 from Zamboanga Sibugay and 1,053 were from Isabela City.