Undernutrition in the Philippines: scale, scope, and opportunities for nutrition policy and programming

For nearly 30 years, the rates of both wasting and stunting in the Philippines have been nearly flat. For 2019, the rate of stunting among children under five years of age (28.8 percent) was only slightly lower than in 2008 (32 percent)—the prevalence of underweight in 2019 was 19 percent and that of wasting was 6 percent. Based on the World Health Organization’s classification of undernutrition rates, the stunting prevalence of children in the Philippines is of “very high” public health significance. The Philippines’ 29 percent stunting rate places it fifth among countries in the East Asia and Pacific region, and among the top 10 countries globally. The Philippines’ high levels of childhood undernutrition can lead to a staggering loss of the country’s human and economic potential. The burden on the Philippines’ economy brought by childhood undernutrition was estimated at US$4.4 billion, or 1.5 percent of the country’s GDP, in 2015. Undernutrition robs Filipino children of their chance at a bright future. When viewed through the lens of the World Bank’s Human Capital Index (HCI), the country’s 2020 HCI score of 0.52 predicts that the future productivity of children born today will be 48 percent below what they might achieve if they were to enjoy complete education and full health. Undernutrition in the Philippines: Scale, Scope, and Opportunities for Nutrition Policy and Programming presents a comprehensive, analytical work on this topic. It provides evidence of why it is critical that the government of the Philippines prioritize tackling this persistent challenge. The report assesses the determinants and causes of childhood undernutrition and reviews current policies and programs directed at addressing this problem. Based on these analyses, the report provides recommendations of how national policies and programs can be strengthened to reduce the high rates of undernutrition in the country. It sets out to inform the debate on the causes and potential solutions of undernutrition while identifying high-priority policies and policy commitments for action.