This month, we find it felicitous to think of Filipino children – those 18 years old and below, in school and out of school – who separately have their own stories, and whose rights are often glossed over unnecessarily.
We are grateful that the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Council for the Welfare of Children and the National Youth Commission have joined hands in leading the celebration of National Children’s Month from November 1 to 30.
To their credit, they have scheduled online activities, including webinars, digital parenting, and advocacy video on positive discipline during the month-long celebration, the 28th anniversary of the NCM which focuses on upholding the rights of children during the pandemic like the COVID-19.
Appropriate is the celebration’s theme “Sama-samang Itaguyod ang Karapatan ng Bawat Bata sa Panahon ng Pandemya” which is intended to promote the protection of all children and their rights, provide practical support to parents and caregivers on how to care for children and themselves during the pandemic, empower children to protect themselves and report the experience of abuse, and guide Local Government Units in efficiently delivering their expected roles and functions.
To date, while this country of almost 112 million is standing up to the challenge of the pandemic of this generation, we catch sight of the need to improve access to quality education for out-of-school children which has remained one of the Philippine government’s top priorities in 2019.
We understand nine percent of Filipinos aged 6 to 24 years old are not in school, or almost 1 out of 10, totaling to an alarming figure of 3.6 million out-of-school children and youth in 2016.
We are sure policymakers and implementers of youth programs in the Philippines and elsewhere have learned much about the situation of out-of-school youth and children in the Philippines: the extent of the problem, the characteristics of OSCY, the legal and policy framework, the interventions being implemented by different public and private agencies for their welfare, and the priorities and recommendations for future action based on a review of international experience.
Meanwhile, lead agencies have lined up activities on sharing the experiences of LGUs in protecting children and their rights during the pandemic, discussions on mental health, coping with the blended and distance education for young learners, story telling, a watch party for traditional and innovative indoor Filipino games, accented by instructional video with children.
The coronavirus pandemic, which has infected at least 391,809 and killed 7,461 – and the numbers are rising – has forced the lead agencies to enjoin other government agencies and non-government organizations to participate in and conduct their own online activities in line with the celebration to promote their programs and services for children.
As we go through the celebration we cannot avoid thinking of at least some of the rights of these children, rights that must under all circumstances be protected by the government and authorized agencies.
We find it appropriate to remind each one yet once more about the rights of children in the urban and rural areas – any person under the age of 18 – which should, under all circumstances, be protected which should not be taken away from them.
The Philippines, the 12th most populated country in the world, in an archipelago of 7,107 islands, has “high numbers” of children, by some accounts, with almost 40 percent of the population under 18.
At the same time, we mouth off that Filipino children are increasingly suffering from poor diets, inadequate nutrition and food systems that are failing them, as once warned by the UNICEF in its global report.
UNICEF revealed that one in three Filipino children under five years old are stunted, which means they are too short for their age, while roughly 7 per cent of children are too thin for their height. Moreover, a 10th of Filipino adolescents are now overweight, with increased vulnerability to disease due to poor health-seeking behavior, incomplete immunization, poor hygiene and care practices, and inadequate diet – both in quantity and quality – which causes under nutrition in early childhood.
“The under nutrition facts in the Philippines are disturbing – one in three 12-23-month-old children suffer from anaemia while one in three children are irreversibly stunted by the age of 2.
On the other hand, 1 in 10 adolescents are obese from wrong eating habits,” according to Oyun Dendevnorov of UNICEF Philippines.
“The triple burden of under nutrition, hidden hunger and overweight poses serious threats to child health, therefore, UNICEF is supporting the Philippine Government in implementing the Philippine Plan of Action on Nutrition. Under the leadership of the Government, working together with private sector, civil society and all stakeholders, we must address the causes of unhealthy eating in all its forms.”
The National Nutrition Council is exhausting all efforts to address malnutrition especially among children through the PPAN 2017-2022, which serves as the country’s framework for nutrition improvement.
Dr. Dayanghirang, Executive Director, National Nutrition Council, has said “One of the strategic thrusts of the PPAN 2017-2022 is the focus on the first 1000 days of life, which refers to the period of pregnancy up to the first two years of the child.
This is a window of opportunity wherein key health, nutrition, early education and related services should be delivered to ensure optimum physical and mental development of a child.
Poor nutrition during this period can have irreversible effects on the physical and mental development of a child that eventually affects a child’s performance in school as well as productivity and ability to earn as an adult, consequently affecting the quality of life of a person. (To be continued)