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KOICA-UNICEF partnership key to improving children’s health amid pandemic and typhoons

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From 2018 to 2022, the Republic of Korea through the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and UNICEF implemented the partnership programme “Integrated Nutrition and Health Actions for the First 1,000 Days” (‘F1KD’ programme), with a focus on the three provinces of Samar, Northern Samar, and Zamboanga del Norte (ZdN).

Across the three project provinces, there was a notable improvement in diets of young children, with the minimum acceptable diet increasing from 15 percent to 18 percent. Exclusive breastfeeding rose to 71 percent, and early initiation of breastfeeding—within one hour of birth—increased significantly from 77 percent to 82 percent.

Crisel’s arm is being measured with a Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) tape at the health center in San Jose de Buan on November 12, 2021. The MUAC tape indicates that she has recovered from wasting.

When it came to postnatal care (within 48 hours), there was an increase from 76 per cent to 83 percent, coverage of the vitamin A services from 50 per cent to 76 percent and deworming from 46 per cent to 61 per cent.

The households with improved sources of drinking water increased from 95 per cent to 97 per cent, and those practicing open defecation decreased significantly from 15 per cent to 6 percent.

Zamboanga del Norte, in particular, saw a notable improvement in the proportion of young children consuming the minimum acceptable diet from 10 per cent to 28 per cent.

Midwife and Nutrition Action Officer Adelfa Gloria visits mother Cristina Cabael and her daughter Crisel in their home in San Jose de Buan, Samar on November 12, 2021. Adelfa has witnessed Crisel’s “wasted” condition and her recovery.

Additionally, there was a remarkable decrease of children experiencing severe Food Poverty from 53 per cent to 27 percent. Generally, ZdN made a considerable advancement in nutrition-specific indicators such as nutrition sensitive Food Systems interventions, Early Childhood Development index, and access to clean water and improved sanitation.

All these improvements contributed to the provincial flagship programme integrating nutrition and health interventions for the first 1,000 days with food security and livelihoods, water and sanitation provision as well as hygiene promotion and access to early childhood education and care.

“During the implementation of the ‘F1KD’ programme, we have accomplished remarkable milestones especially at the national level to improve the policy and governance environment for maternal, infant and child nutrition in the first 1,000 days.”

“Three new national policies and legislation were completed, namely: 1) RA 11210 the Expanded Maternity Leave Law completed in 2019, 2) RA 11148 (the first 1,000 days) Implementing Rules and Regulations completed in 2019, and 3) RA 11148 Manual of Procedures completed in 2021,” shared Kim Eunsub, Country Director of KOICA Philippines.

In addition, all 19 target municipalities have increased their budget allocation on integrated nutrition and first 1,000 days interventions as noted in their Local Nutrition Action Plans.

Those achievements in legal frameworks were brought under the leadership of local chief executives and has created an environment for delivering quality care services.

During the duration of the program, the COVID-19 pandemic along with several typhoons affected the implementation period.

These external factors exacerbated vulnerabilities, disrupted services and delivery of commodities, and complicated the counselling of caregivers and families for improved knowledge, awareness, and practices for optimum health outcomes.

Despite the challenges, all the notable improvements and achievements prove that the efforts put into the programme have begun to bear fruit.

‘F1KD,’ which had a total budget of US$6.7 million, was designed to provide a more responsive enabling policy and governance environment, to strengthen systems for the delivery of quality and comprehensive nutrition and health and to improve knowledge, attitudes, and practices of pregnant women, mothers, and caregivers in the 19 project areas on maternal and child nutrition and health.

Though data from the 2022 Expanded National Nutrition Survey (ENNS) showed improving trends as a result of the programme, it also put emphasis on key points that continuously need to be addressed to ensure food security and nutrition.

These points include: the need for multi-sectoral implementation strategies engaging agriculture and food system, health, education, WASH and social protection; creating enabling legislations and policies in food system and supply chains; improving coverage and strengthening the delivery of quality nutrition services; implementing policies and practices that supports students in making healthy choices; ensuring that the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) accounts for the increasing cost of a healthy diets.

“While undernutrition in the Philippines remains a serious problem, the support of the Government of Korea through the ‘F1KD’ programme strengthened ownership and governance at all levels to ensure every child’s right to survive and thrive.”

“Let us keep the momentum and build on the gains we made. Children in the Philippines deserve the best possible start in life,” said Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov, UNICEF Philippines Representative.


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