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First 1,000 Days Program Budget Increase Twofold – POE

Senator Grace Poe’s proposal of a twofold increase in the outlay of the First 1,000 Days program to P539.88 million from P269.94 million in 2018 is closer to realization as the proposed P3.8 trillion spending program for next year has cleared the Senate and is only a few steps toward becoming a law.

According to Poe, the budget increase – approved by the Senate finance committee chaired by Senator Loren Legarda – was an important step in improving the nutrition of children, addressing the effects of health deficiencies and covering more beneficiaries.

“Various studies have suggested that nutrition interventions targeting the first 1,000 days of life – from the mother’s pregnancy to the second birthday of her child – are the most important as this provides a window of opportunity to an individual’s cognitive and physical growth. The First 1,000 Days Program also reduces mortality and morbidity rates and lessens prevalence of stunting and wasting among children,” said the legislator, who authored Senate Bill No. 161 or the proposed First 1,000 Days Act that seeks to establish a pre-natal and post-natal care program, with emphasis on exclusive breastfeeding, and provides support to a child’s life from conception to the child’s second birthday.

The lawmaker manifested that her amendment was part of her commitment to “push for better social services.” She thanked Legarda for carrying “this important amendment” and her colleagues for supporting the amendment.

“Hiningi natin ang karagdagang pondo sa First 1,000 Days para mas maabot natin ang mga buntis at sanggol, lalo na sa malalayong probinsya,” the senator added.

Poe likewise urged other senators to rally behind the budget increase in the First 1,000 Days Program when the bicameral conference committee considers the budget bill in order to sustain such until the money measure becomes a law.

The National Nutrition Council (NNC), an attached agency of the Department of Health (DOH) and the lead implementing agency of the First 1,000 Days Program, said 24.8% or about 25 of 100 pregnant women are nutritionally at risk while 25.2% are anemic. For infants, 23.2% are born with low birth weight and only 28.4% zero to five months old are exclusively breastfed.

The NNC said only 15.5% of children aged 6-23 months meet the minimum adequate diet; 39.5% of one-year-old children are anemic; while 36.2% of the one year old are stunted.

This grim situation in the country is cemented by the fact that majority of infants die during the first three days of life, which the DOH considers as “the golden period” for the infant to survive. This condition is specifically true to infants born to malnourished mothers who did not have proper prenatal checkups; to women who had infections during pregnancy; to women who have delivered in their homes without the presence of skilled health professionals; and more prevalent for babies who were deprived of breastfeeding within the first hour after birth.

“We urge the Department of Health, in particular the NNC, to look closely into its absorptive capacity so that the additional funds will be put to good use in order to reverse the statistics where pregnant women and their newborn are at risk,” Poe said.

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