Feeding program for Muslim children in Mindanao to start in May

QUEZON CITY-- The feeding program for malnourished children in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) under the Bangsamoro Umpungan sa Nutrisyon or BangUn Project of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will roll out in select cities and municipalities in Sulu and Maguindanao in May 2017.

This is the good news announced by Director for Special Concerns and the Project Manager for Operations of the BangUn Project, Maristela P. Abenojar, during yesterday's episode of 'DSWD May Malasakit' radio program aired over DZRH 666AM radio.

BangUn is a comprehensive, community-based, and culturally-responsive convergence of services that takes into account the abject situation of the Moro people in ARMM, specifically children. It aims to improve the nutritional status of kids in the region through a collaborative inter-agency approach engaging the parents of malnourished children, communities and the concerned local government unit (LGU)- partners. Led by the DSWD, the project will be implemented in close coordination with different national government agencies (NGAs) and their ARMM counterparts.

Sa ngayon, patapos na kami sa social preparation phase at nakapag-hire na din kami ng additional staff para sa proyekto noong Pebrero. Tinatapos na din natin ang validation at identification ng mga batang benepisyaryo para sa feeding program (Today, we are almost done with the social preparation phase and we have finished hiring additional staff for the project in February. We are also on the last stage of validation and identification of children beneficiaries for the feeding program), said Dir. Abenojar.

The Director also added that her team has been conducting orientation with the parents of the beneficiaries to prepare them for the project and are coordinating with the National Food Authority (NFA) for the supply of rice. The Guidelines for the program are also being finalized.

The project covers children 0-12 years old in the communities and those studying in madrasahs or Muslim schools, but the pilot testing will initially include those under the age of 2-5 years old. It will also cover pregnant and lactating women, and will give special focus on teenage mothers. The pilot areas include the municipalities of Jolo, Patikul and Maimbong in the province of Sulu; and eight municipalities in Maguindanao, namely Datu Piang, Datu Salibo, Mamasapano, Shariff Saydona Mustapha, Shariff Aguak, Guindulungan, Talayan, and Datu Odin.

The pilot stage will run until December 2017 and will have a budget of P32 million for a target of 6,000 beneficiaries.

Dir. Abenojar explained that the feeding program is just one of the many components of BangUn. Other components of the project include sustainable livelihood program, agri-production, climate change mitigation program, and community projects, such as fish landing �all these help residents secure food for their family in the long run.

NGAs involved in the project include the Department of Health (DOH), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Department of Education (DedEd), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Agriculture (DA), and Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).

Also included in the project are the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC), and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

DSWD-Field Office in ARMM, together with Field Offices IX and XII, will spearhead the implementation of the project in the region.

Addressing hunger, food security

According to Dir. Abenojar, the project will help address the worsening hunger and malnutrition among children in ARMM, where many of the poorest cities and municipalities in the Philippines are located.

Ang ARMM ay ang pinakamahirap na rehiyon sa buong Pilipinas, at hindi ito lingid kay Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte. Sa pulong ng kanyang gabinete noong Agosto ng nakaraang taon, binigyang pansin ng Pangulo ang kalagayan ng mga batang Moro sa ARMM. Binigyan niya ng espesyal na responsibilidad ang DSWD na pangunahan ang isang convergence project katuwang ang iba't-ibang ahensya ng gobyerno upang i-address ito (The ARMM is one of the poorest regions in the Philippines-and President Rodrigo Duterte is very much aware of this. During one of his cabinet meetings in August 2016, the President raised the situation of Moro children in ARMM. He gave special direction to the DSWD to lead a convergence project in partnership with the different NGAs to address this), she stated.

Data from NAPC show that the poverty incidence in ARMM is recorded at 53.4 percent in the first semester of 2015. This means that one out of two families in the region had an income lower than the poverty threshold or the minimum income to meet the basic food and non-food necessities.

The ongoing armed conflict in the region between the government forces and the rebels further aggravated the hunger experienced by children. Their parents have lost their stable source of income as they need to evacuate from one place to another whenever there is a war going on in their neighborhood.

Napakahalaga ng usapin ng nutrisyon para sa survival ng ating mga kababayan, lalo na ng mga bata. Ang kakulangan ng masustansyang makakain na nagdudulot ng malnutrisyon ay may negatibong epekto sa kalusugan, edukasyon at economic na sitwasyon ng mga bata (Good nutrition is important for the survival of our fellow citizens, especially children. Lack of source of nutritious food, which results in malnutrition, has negative impact on the health, education, and economic situation of children), Dir. Abenojar explained.

"Sana ang proyektong ito ay magsilbing inspirasyon sa ibang rehiyon na tignan ang kalusugan at nutrisyon ng mga bata sa kanilang lugar. Ang ating layunin ay mapabuti ang kalusugan at nutrisyon ng ating kabataan na maaring makatulong upang mabago ang kanilang buhay (I hope this project will become an inspiration to other regions to look into the health and nutrition of their children. Our goal is to improve the nutritional status of kids in our country, which will eventually change their lives), she said.

BangUn was launched in Cotabato in October 2016.

Source: Philippines Information Agency