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Senate OKs bill scaling up nutrition during first 1,000 days of a child

The Senate on Monday approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to scale up nutrition during the first 1,000 days of life, and to establish a maternal and child health care program throughout the country.

Voting 19-0, the Senate plenary approved Committee Report No. 145 or the Healthy Nanay and Bulilit Act, which identified a child's first 1,000 days as a "golden window" for development, with effects ranging from the potential to prevent stunted growth and the opportunity to improve cognitive development.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, co-sponsor of the bill and vice chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, said investment in good nutrition during the critical 1,000 days, from pregnancy to a child's second birthday, is crucial to developing a child’s cognitive capacity and physical growth.

"I am happy with the Senate's swift action on this important measure. We now have a clear policy in helping scale up nutrition during the first 1,000 days of life. The fight against malnutrition will now be a top priority of both the national and the local government," she said.

Under the bill, the government would be mandated to prioritize the nutrition of  pre-pregnant, pregnant and lactating women, infants and young children, to be implemented in an integrated manner by all branches of government.

The government wil provide for a comprehensive strategy to address health and nutrition of children and institutionalize and scale up investment plans for health and nutrition in the regional and local development units.

The bill will also strengthen enforcement of Executive Order No. 51, or the Milk Code,  and Republic Act No. 10028, or the Expanded Breastfeeding  Promotion Act of 2009." The two laws promote optimal infant and young child feeding and maternity protection.

Explaining his vote, Senator Ralph Recto said the bill will provide nutritional supplement to 650,000 high-risk women and 300,000 babies from poor families annually; administer Vitamin A drops to almost 3.3 million 6-to- 23-month old infants; give iron tablets to 3.8 million pregnant women and half-a-million babies; will vaccinate 2.7 million one-year-old and below babies against hepatitis B, polio, measles, mumps and rubella.

He said the bill will also inoculate 2.7 million pregnant women against tetanus and diptheria; deworm 3.7 children below 2 years of age, plus girls 10 to 18 years of age; provide Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccines to 1.4 million children 1 year old and below; and nutritionally fortify 4 million metric tons of flour, and ensure that 50 million Filipinos will have access to iodized salt.

"While the rest of the world is growing taller, so to speak, the Philippines will remain stunted if we do not act fast to solve undernutrition—which will prove costlier to society in terms of loss of productivity, than the P17 billion budget it will entail to implement this 1,000 days program. On that happy note, Mr. President, let me register my yes vote," Recto said.

Senator Grace Poe said merging the First 1,000 Days bill with the recently passed Masustansyang Pagkain Para Sa Batang Pinoy bill will give Filipino children a headstart in life.

"With the passage of this measure, we are one step closer to achieving a 'life cycle' of social protection which covers all stages of human development," Poe said.

"Kung masustansya ang kinakain ng ating mga nanay at ng ating mga anak sa kanilang period of development, baka tayo ang isa sa maging pinakamagaling na bansa sa Asya dahil ang mga Pilipino ay may angking galing kahit na sa hirap ng buhay natin. Lalo na siguro kapag tayo ay mas malusog," she added.

In September last year, the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading counterpart bill which seeks to strengthen programs that address malnutrition and other health issues among pregnant and lactating women and young children. —KBK, GMA News