Lawanun Women Advocates for Malnutrition Prevention

Published: Mar 20, 2024 Reading time: 4 minutes
Lawanun Women Advocates for Malnutrition Prevention
© Foto: Zenny Awing

A Case Study conducted by the World Food Programme in 2023 revealed that approximately 49% of individuals in BARMM (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) experience chronic malnutrition, with 49% of children under the age of five affected by stunting, marking the highest prevalence of this condition in the country.

Chronic malnutrition, characterized by physical and cognitive growth delays, is primarily identified through stunting, which refers to the inability to reach expected height for a given age. Recognizing the urgent need for action, the Lawanun Women’s Producers Cooperative (LWPC) launched an awareness campaign on malnutrition prevention in Lumbatan municipality in Lanao del Sur, BARMM, supported by a small grant from the project, Strengthening capacities of civil society in Caraga and BARMM for good governance, funded by the European Union and is being implemented by People in Need (PIN), Maranao People Development Center (MARADECA) and Balay Mindanaw Foundation, Inc. (BMFI).

"We recognized the need to conduct a malnutrition prevention campaign in our community, as we observed many children showing signs of malnutrition, particularly in remote mountainous areas where access to proper nutrition is limited. Parents lack knowledge about providing adequate nutrition for their children,"

explained Malica L. Duca, secretary of the cooperative.

According to UNICEF Philippines, malnutrition has been a persistent issue in Lanao del Sur due to poverty, remote location, and limited access to essential health and nutrition services. These geographic obstacles hinder families from accessing timely healthcare and support. Additionally, traditional customs, coupled with a lack of awareness and cultural beliefs, significantly impact people's dietary preferences.

“It is very common for mothers here to provide easy and cheap food like instant noodles and canned food for the children. We thought that providing any food as long as the children can eat is already okay,” says Rohainie Abdulrahman, a participant of the awareness campaign.

LWPC gathered recent data from the municipal Rural Health Unit (RHU) to pinpoint barangays with the most severe malnutrition cases, deliberately selecting six barangays as having a high rate of malnutrition. These are far-flung areas, making access difficult due to inaccessible roads.

The group then devised activities that included door-to-door data collection of children's body mass index (BMI) information and subsequently submitted to the RHU. The collected data will also serve as a monitoring tool for identifying children in need of proper nutrition interventions.

LWPC conducted a 3-day awareness campaign in six target barangays, inviting a speaker from the RHU to cover topics such as the importance of a balanced diet, proper hygiene, breastfeeding for infants, and ensuring immunization of children.

Mothers in the communities show appreciation for the campaign. According to Abdulrahman,
"As a mother, it's crucial to monitor children's weight to ensure it's appropriate for their age. Additionally, I learned that malnutrition affects not only thin children but also overweight ones. We should really encourage our children to consume vegetables and fruits, not just rice."

Adhering to their advocacy as health workers

Adhering to their advocacy as health workers, LWPC members who are also volunteer rural health workers, decided to pursue a campaign aimed at preventing malnutrition, aligning closely with their mission. "During one of our trainings in this project, we were enlightened to focus on an advocacy issue, and we chose to advocate for children's nutrition. Now, we are integrating our learning and are fully committed to this cause, particularly since the majority of us are barangay health workers. The capacity-building training provided by the project greatly assisted us in crafting our proposal and planning for this initiative," says Isnihayah L. Hadji Carim, a member of the LWPC.

Despite the considerable challenge of addressing malnutrition in the area, the LWPC recognizes the necessity of seeking assistance and support from the LGUs to sustain the initiatives they have undertaken with the project.

With the help of MARADECA, the LWPC has become a member of the municipal Peace and Order Council, a local special body (LSB) of Lumbatan, and has applied for membership in the Local Health Board. Membership in LSBs ensures pathways for advancing community interests and integrating people’s needs and recommendations in local development plans.

"We are striving to become more proactive in connecting with the LGUs to raise concerns and advocate for the community. We aim to continue monitoring these children and continue further projects connected to our advocacy," says Duca.

The Strengthening Capacities of Civil Society in Caraga and BARMM for Good Governance project provided tailor-fitted capacity building activities to 34 CSOs in two Mindanao regions. It has also provided Financial Support to Third Parties (FSTP or sub-grants) to these CSOs to support their initiatives to further improve their capacities through a learning by doing approach. Upcoming activities will involve facilitation of improved CSO-LGU collaboration. 

Autor: Zenny Awing, MEAL and Communications Officer

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