Silent Emergency: Battling severe malnutrition in Southern Philippines

The prolonged displacement due to the 2008 armed conflict in Central Mindanao caused a silent nutrition emergency to surface. Since then, UNICEF with various partners such as Medecins Sans Frontieres from 2009 to 2010 and Save the Children in 2010 and 2011 implemented various approaches to address severe acute malnutrition (SAM). While these interventions were still largely seen as humanitarian in nature, there was a recognized need to align with global standards in management of SAM and at the same time document local experiences, challenges, and best practices towards the development of a national

Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) protocol. This resulted in the recent project of UNICEF and Save the Children, entitled “Ensuring Access to Nutrition and Education among the Conflict Affected Areas of Central Mindanao”.

By April 2011, 32,770 children under 5 years old were screened for acute malnutrition and given supplies of multi- micro nutrient powders while 388 children were treated for SAM, doubling the number of children reached the year before in just four and a half months. Community mobilization activities were conducted in all target municipalities, and more than 1,100 mothers have been reached with nutrition education and IYCF counseling sessions by local NGO partners. At its young stage, the CMAM program indicators were reaching very close to international standards.

Implementation of CMAM by Save the Children since the first program cycle in 2009 has yielded significant challenges and experiences that aided in the gradual improvement of the quality of service delivery, means of coordination with partners, and the degree program objectives are achieved.

Training for service providers and agreements on roles and coordination mechanisms during the early phase of the project are crucial. In all phases of implementation, the commitment and involvement of key government stakeholders at the regional, provincial and municipal levels must be sought.

Community mobilization is seen as a means of addressing barriers to access; and sustained efforts to engage the beneficiaries must be made.