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PHL economy is losing P328B a yr. to malnutrition — children's NGO

The Philippine economy is losing at least P328 billion a year from the impact of childhood stunting on workforce productivity and education, a study by Save The Children showed.

Released on Tuesday, the study "Cost of Hunger: Philippines" revealed that childhood stunting cost the country almost 3 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) in 2013.

"This study proves that undernutrition has a cost to all of us. In just a year, Philippines has lost almost 3 percent of its GDP in terms of education and productivity costs due to stunting," Ned Olney, Save The Children Philippines country director, said at the launch of the study.

"If we add up health costs, the likely impact would be an additional 0.05 percent to 1.6 percent," Olney added.

The economic losses consist of the following:

  • P166.5 billion worth of lost income as a result of lower level of education achieved by the working population who suffered from childhood stunting
  • P160 billion in lost productivity due to premature deaths of over 830,000 among children under 5 years old, who would have been members of our current working-age population
  • P1.23 billion in additional education costs to cover grade repetitions linked to undernutrition
  • "If stunting rates continue to rise, it would be difficult for families to break free from poverty," Olney emphasized.

The poor and neglected sectors of society carry the burden of stunting, he said.

"Any investment in reducing childhood undernutrition will reduce suffering and poverty and will ultimately stimulate economic growth for all Filipinos," he added.

The study also found that Philippine investment in nutrition programs is very low at 0.52 percent of general government expenditures compared with global average of 2.1 percent.

Save The Children emphasized on the importance of investing in nutrition programs during a child's first 1,000 days or from pregnancy to the second birthday.

"Nutrition is the cornerstone of all development efforts. This report tells us that for every $1 dollar spent on programs to avert stunting in children below 2 years old, the Philippines could save over $100 billion in health, education, and lost productivity costs," Olney said. — VDS, GMA News