Some of the children having their nutritious meal.
Fresh milk for the kids.
By PERCY A OSTONAL
WHEN Ricarte “Dong” Padilla assumed the mayor’s office in July 2010, the first thing he thought of doing during his term was to deal with the growing malnutrition problem among the children of poor families.
Something that he had to balance with other major urgent concerns, such as the need for more infrastructure, the governance of the local government, health and sanitation, education, skills training, environment and ecological issues.
And when he delivered his second inaugural speech as the re-elected mayor last July, he assured the community that “such specific undertaking will be done with priority”.
Zeroing in on the children, he said: “There would be no malnourished children in Mambulao under my watch."
Leday sharing happy moments with a beneficiary kid.
Somehow, it was a pledge that he needed to flesh out as soon as possible if things should get better for the malnourished kids.
A year earlier, when he flew to the United States and met fellow Mambulaoan Dr Edgar "Egay” Aler, Mayor Padilla brought up the topic.
And with less word, Aler stressed his willingness to extend his helping hand for the good of the next generation children of his beloved community.
Dr Aler went home during the mayor’s inauguration last June 30, for his second term of office, and sealed his commitment with Padilla for the malnourished children of our town.
With a budget of P15/day per child for 81 beneficiaries, or a total of P24,300 a month, the feeding program took off.
The malnourished schoolchildren at the Jose Panganiban Elementary School (JPES) pupils were confirmed by the representatives of the Department of Social Services as well as the office of the school principal along with the home economics teachers.
– Pictures courtesy of the Aler Family
Under the feeding program, they will enjoy nutritious meals from Monday to Friday.
On July 21, 2013, Dr Aler’s initiative was finally launched, with his daughter Leday Aler, who is based in Mambulao, spearheading the project.
The feeding gig these days is popularly known as the Project Sagip Dagdag sa Kalusugan (Feeding to rescue malnourished kids).
Since launching, the program has identified more malnourished children across the municipality.
In fact, at baranggay South Poblacion, 60 kids from the village’s ten purok (unit) were identified and included as beneficiaries.
Sagip Dagdag sa Kalusugan also monitorsits success by making sure that at the end of the month, each of these children mounts the weigh scale to see if they actually gained weight.
As incentive for staying healthy, thanks to the nutritious meals, they are awarded some cash for their daily needs such as tricycle fare and all.
To boost the feeding program, Mayor Padilla distributes nutritional products and vitamins.
As you may recall, Dr Edgar Aler and his family as well as his siblings from overseas come home every year, either for medical mission at RPS Stadium or to distribute pasalubong to the poorest members of the 27 baranggays.
Dr Egay said it was his family’s token of appreciation to the great blessings he received from The Almighty and his adopted home in California.
"Kung saan ako makakatulong sa kapwa at kababayan sa abot ng aking makakaya, doon ako at hindi ako nag-hihintay ng kapalit na pagkilala, o ano pa man. (At any time I could help within my means, I will be there without waiting for recognition from anyone).
Aler said during my phone interview with him: “Sana naman, iyong mga kababayan nating nakaluluwag sa buhay dito sa America at Canada or any other places ay maka-alalang tumulong sa ating kapwa Mambolenos, lalo na iyong mga malnourished children sa ating bayan (I’m just hoping our well-off kababayan in America, Canada and elsewhere to remember extending help to malnourished children in our hometown).
Food for thought:
a) 38 % of children from the least developed countries have had their growth stunted by malnutrition.
b) Malnourished children score 7 % lower in Math tests and 19 % less likely to be able to read aged 8.
c) The poorest 40% are 2,8 times more likely to suffer the long-term effects of malnutrition than the richest 10 %.
d) Poor health and education limit job prospects. Children malnutrition cuts future earnings by at least 20 %.
e) In total current children malnutrition could cost the global economy US$125 billion when today's children grow up.
The opportunity :
a) Better childhood nutrition could cut stunting by 1/3 and reduce health issues, from diarrhea and pneumonia to deaf-mutism.
b) well nourished children are 13 % more likely to be in the correct grade at school -- boosting lifelong skills.
c) Good health and jobs break the cycle of poverty and ensure that every child gets a chance to thrive.
d) By improving health and education, good nutrition leads to a more skillful and dynamic workforce.
e) Fixing malnutrition now could bring economic benefits over 100 times as large as the costs of intervention.
(Source: UNICEF- 2013 improving child nutrition: The achievable imperative for global progress; Save the Children. (2013 Food for Thought)