Tuesday, July 8, 2014

More than 25% Of The Children In Atok, Benguet Are Malnourished, Survey Says

A recent article on Rappler by Fritzie Rodriguez highlighted what could be a serious problem in the municipality of Atok in Benguet. Actually, that should be a series of serious problems. One, there's plenty of food in the municipality but people are getting very little nutrition. Two, more than 25% of children under five are stunted which means they are too short for their age because of malnutrition. Three, farmers are being paid very low wages. Four, there's extreme inequality when it comes to the distribution of lands. Five, parents lack information about proper nutrition. And six, the people's diet is unbalanced, the highlight of which is the obvious lack in protein.

Now, it would of course be unwise to treat everything you read from the internet as true but in this case the people of Atok and the powers that be need to embrace this as truth. Atok is close to home and having passed the place countless of times, I could see the basis for these problems.

According to the Rappler piece, a joint survey conducted by the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the World Food Programme found out that more than 25% of children under 5 in Atok are stunted. Before anything else, it's worth pointing out that this percentage given is very vague. "More than 25%" means it could be between 26% and 100%. I don't know if this is an error on the part of the writer or on the part of those behind the survey. However, this doesn't take away the fact that a huge chunk of the children in Atok are malnourished.
A terrace of vegetable gardens. Photo by MKA via Flickr
The unbalanced diet is pretty obvious. It would be safe to claim that the main diet in the municipality consists of rice and vegetables. This is also among the main reasons why a lot of children are malnourished. Essential nutrients from other food groups (protein especially) are lacking in their diets. Atok is really not livestock country. Only a few people raise cows, pigs and chickens.

But then again, given the terrain in Atok, it would be very difficult to raise livestock in bigger scales. There's simply no room for pasture. This is not to say it's impossible but it would take double or even triple the effort to raise livestock in Atok compared to livestock-friendly lands.

As to the low wages of farmers and the unequal distribution of lands, more facts and data need to be gathered as to why this is the case. I don't know where Rodriguez got the numbers wherein farmers earn as low as Php12 a week. If it's true, that's just inhumane.