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Combatting Childhood Malnutrition in the Philippines

A group of mothers learn to prepare healthy meals for their families.

In a modest home in the Philippines, Arlinda Dalabalan sits among about 20 children — ages 5 to 8 — singing a song. Before the song she’d clipped the children’s nails, combed their hair and inspected their scalps. When the song is done she’ll teach them how to properly wash their hands and record each of their weights.

In the kitchen at the back of the house, a group of mothers stand around a large table chopping, mixing, stirring and patting vegetables into nutritious dishes for their children. Scattered across the table are all kinds of vegetables — squash, green beans, eggplant, tomatoes, and more. But this was not how families in the Del Monte barangay (village) always ate.

In fact, if you’d visited in the not-so-distant past, a typical meal for the children might have consisted of rice or noodles and sardines — a diet that left many undernourished, especially children.

Baby Aiza, , mother of 5-year-old Quintisa (pictured) and 4-year-old Chloa Faith, says the program has helped her tremulously. Her children now eat vegetables and have grown to a healthy weight.
Baby Aiza, , mother of 5-year-old Quintisa (pictured) and 4-year-old Chloa Faith, says the program has helped her tremulously. Her children now eat vegetables and have grown to a healthy weight.

Now, through a partnership between LWR and Philippine Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas (PhilDHRRA), families are learning to diversify and increase the crops they grow, eat sufficient amounts of nutritious food and follow health and nutrition best practices, including proper sanitation and nutrition for children.

Part of this work is accomplished through a home- and community-based nutrition program for children in developing countries who are at risk for malnutrition.

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Families of well-nourished children share their positive household practices with other families in the community, like always feeding children vegetables, cooking vegetables in more kid-friendly ways (such as with eggs), and proper sanitation of things like utensils and cutting boards.

Then parents, usually moms, participate in daily sessions that include 30 minutes each of lecture, food prep, utensil cleaning, cooking and, finally, feeding the children. Meanwhile, the children learn about basic sanitation such as proper hand washing.

Arlinda Dalabalan teaches a group of children in her community how to properly wash their hands. She also clips their nails, combs their hair and inspects their scalps.
Arlinda Dalabalan teaches a group of children in her community how to properly wash their hands. She also clips their nails, combs their hair and inspects their scalps. This is one way families are helping other families learn how to keep their children healthy in the Philippines.

This is one component of a larger project in six barangays where LWR is working to improve the food security and livelihoods of vulnerable families. The six barangays, with 5,300 households, have a combined population of more than 22,000. On average, nearly half of the families cannot afford to meet their basic food needs and satisfy nutritional requirements.

Baby Aiza, mother of 5-year-old Quintisa and 4-year-old Chloa Faith, says the program has helped her tremendously. Her children now eat vegetables and have grown to a healthy weight. And now that they are eating better, they have more energy to play and interact with other children. Baby Aiza is proud she’s feeding her children nourishing food that came from her very own garden.

Joe Carlin, of Ashburn, Virginia, had the opportunity to visit the project and see this work in action.

“I was struck by the thankfulness of the people for help becoming self-empowered, the universal desire of parents for a better life for their children, and the deep generosity and sharing from people with so little,” he said.

By helping families grow more nutritious food, and learn how to incorporate those nutritious foods into their diets, your support is helping to build lasting food security in the Philippines.

This article appears in: LWR Special Reports