Guinobatan in Albay has slowly but surely worked on improving the nutrition status of children in the municipality. From 26% rate of malnutrition prevalence in 2008 to 5.86% in 2016, what a great leap indeed!
Overtime, Guinobatan continuously innovate programs to keep the interest of the community members. Recently, in line with the importance of first 1000 days of a child and exclusive breastfeeding advocacy of the Department of Health (DOH), mothers who exclusively breastfed their babies since January this year were recognized. First Birthday Packages were given away as incentives. Moving-up ceremonies were conducted in three (3) clusters, where a total of 156 babies were certified exclusively breastfed for six months.
Guinobatan’s story is an inspiring story of the cliché, “in unity, there is strength.” Educo (then Intervida) first operated in the area in 2005, however, nutrition interventions only focused in feeding and multi-vitamin supplementation for children and pregnant women.
In 2012, Educo recognized the need for improving the local structures working for nutrition in the locality. Local nutrition councils at the municipal and village levels were reactivated and orientated on their mandates. Guinobatan has been very receptive and enacted an ordinance of nutrition, which provided for a budget for a nutrition office and a full-time nutrition officer.
For two consecutive years, Guinobatan was awarded 2nd Best in Nutrition – Municipality Category sponsored by the province of Albay.
“Before, the Municipal Nutrition Action Officer (MNAO) does all the work, now the barangay officials are partnering with us to eradicate malnutrition in their own areas,” Dr. Joana Limos reminisces, the Municipal Health Officer (MHO) and also MNAO-designate.
“I think one good practice is the reconstitution of the Municipal Nutrition Council (MNC) wherein the Budget Officer is a member. No Barangay Annual Investment Plans (AIPs) will be approved without health and nutrition budget, especially for children,” she shares.
Educo only covers nine (9) barangays but the LGU expanded and funded its 35 other barangays. Capacity-building provided includes: World Health Organization – Child Growth Standard, Project Development Training, Nutrition Program Management and Basic Training Course for BNSs. Weighing and measuring equipment and tools were also provided to 9 barangays as part of the capacity building. Earlier, good performing barangays and Barangay Nutrition Scholars (BNSs) were also supported through incentives for their nutrition programs like documentation equipment and office furniture.
“The four Educo-trained and the other 2 staff trained by the National Nutrition Council (NNC) will be training all the other 35 barangays not trained by Educo on WHO-CGS. We have acquired a Php500,000 (~€9.500) fund from the national government to capacitate the nutrition workers at the village level,” beams Dr. Limos.
“We were also granted Php 1M (~€19.500) for the breastfeeding program, of which 20% was used for the moving up activity and the rest for the construction of breastfeeding center near the plaza,” she shares.
Guinobatan is also a recipient of another Php 500,000 (~€9.500) for the provision of sanitary toilets in the villages. From 57%, they will have about 90% of the households with sanitary toilets by the end of 2016. About 90% of the households have access to clean water.
She acknowledges that their experience working with Educo has improved not only their documentation skills but more importantly their skills in proposal preparation. The funds from the national government were granted through submission of project proposals.
The annual “Pabasa sa Nutrisyon” or the nutrition education program has also improved the parents’ nutrition awareness. The strengthening of the MNC has ensured that nutrition program is supported by a public advocacy. Advocacies are carried-out targeting audience in a wide scale.
This August, maternal nutrition education and breastfeeding awareness will be integrated in the Search for Super Gandang Buntis (search for super pretty pregnant woman) during the municipal fiesta. An original concept from one of Guinobatan’s barangay, this contest has been adapted by the province of Albay and dubbed “Pretty Preggy” contest. The former is in partnership with the private lying-in clinics and other corporate sponsors to also improve Guinobatan’s public-private partnership (PPP) program.
“I think the 2014 Nutrition Summit paved the way for really opening the eyes of the barangay chairpersons. Results of the weighing of children 0-71 months were presented and sharing of experiences was also done,” says Dr. Limos when asked about the turning point of their stakeholders at the village level.
“A covenant was signed. Policies, resolutions and budgets started to improve. Nutrition corners or officers were also established in all our barangays so that our community members will have a place to go when they need our services,” she also enthuses.
Part of the push is the use of the Monitoring and Evaluation of Local Level Plan Implementation (MELLPI) in evaluating the Barangay Nutrition Councils (BNCs). The MELLPI, a tool introduced by NNC, not only evaluates but also identifies areas for improvement.
The common understanding of the nutrition situation also improves the relationships between the barangay council and the BNSs; they all agree that nutrition is everybody’s responsibility and not just the MNAO or the BNS. First introduced in the nine Educo areas, now MELLPI is used in all of their 44 BNCs since last year.
This year, 89 trained peer-counsellors help the Nutrition Office in its advocacy for exclusive breastfeeding. They were trained on nutrition, breastfeeding counselling and organizing breastfeeding support group in January to February. This was part of the Php1M breastfeeding program granted to the municipality.
Meanwhile, Nutrition Officer Russell Reis points to the intensive coaching and mentoring of BNSs as another factor that helped improved the nutritional status in the municipality.
“The Buntis Class where pregnant women are educated about maternal and child health, the importance of having at least four (4) pre-natal visits and the full-support of the local chief executive (LCE) were also factors in realizing this endeavor,” he shares. Russell’s post is a result of the project which lobbied for a full-time/plantilla position nutrition officer in the LGU.
In 2015, Guinobatan was a recipient of the Red Orchid Award, an award given to municipalities with strongly implemented non-smoking policies. It was also awarded the “Best Implementer for Lakbay Buhay Kalusugan” for the implementation of nutrition, handwashing, toilet facilities, maternal nutrition and dental care by the DOH.
Although it has no Municipal Council for the Protection of Children (MCPC) yet, the MNC serves as the venue where different departments converge and complement their programs to ensure that the agenda on children’s welfare is included in the planning and budgeting.
Truly, the problem on malnutrition among children has improved in this humble but proactive town. With its earnest commitment to eradicate the situation, Guinobatan is on its way to becoming a model town. #
# Story by Mariella, MEL Specialist