By Pilar Manuel, June 23, 2022; CNN Philippines

Photo courtesy of JL Javier/ CNNPHLIFE

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 23) — The World Bank has approved a $178.1-million (about ₱9.7 billion) loan to boost the country’s efforts against malnutrition a week before President Rodrigo Duterte steps down from office.

The fresh credit is for the Philippine Multisectoral Nutrition Project, which will support the provision of nutrition and healthcare services in primary care and community levels among 235 municipalities with high poverty and malnutrition incidence.

The Washington-based lender said Thursday the project features a package of “nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive” interventions along with social behavior change and communications ones.

These are among the interventions for households with pregnant women and children under two years old:

– infant and young feeding

– regular growth monitoring

– multiple micronutrient supplements for kids aged 6-23 months

– dietary supplementation for nutritionally-at-risk pregnant women

– treatment of moderate, severe acute malnutrition

“The persistence of high levels of childhood undernutrition in the Philippines, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, could lead to a significant increase in inequality of opportunities in the country,” said Ndiamé Diop, World Bank Country Director for Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand.

Diop explained that improving children’s nutritional status leads to the Philippines’ target of strengthening human capital along with its economic rebound and long-term growth prospects.

The project likewise supports behavioral change campaigns for targeted households and communities for “crucial” behaviors for better nutrition outcomes for women and children.

These include hand-washing with soap in critical instances, improved sanitation and access to safe drinking water, early child-care and development, nutrition-focused childcare development activities, and promoting access to the Pantawid Pamilya program.

The multilateral lender said the project will also provide performance-based grants for local government units. These are linked to the delivery of pre-defined nutrition, maternal and child services, and improvements in planning and budgeting for nutrition projects at the local level.

“Undernutrition and exposure to risks and adversities during the first 1,000 days of the child’s life can disrupt cognitive, emotional, and physical development and hold children back from reaching their full potential, thus affecting the formation of the country’s human capital, explained Nkosinathi Mbuya, World Bank Senior Nutrition Specialist, East Asia and Pacific Region.

“Therefore, interventions to improve nutritional outcomes must focus on this age group and women of child-bearing age,” he added.

President-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. will formally begin his term on June 30.