Dr. Edgardo Barredo, assistant provincial health chief of Negros Oriental, yesterday underscored in a forum the need to include nutrition interventions in the disaster preparedness plans in the local government levels.

He said that among the objectives of this year’s Nutrition Month celebration this July is to promote nutrition interventions especially during disasters, calamities and other forms of emergencies.

It is timely and appropriate that the nation is celebrating Nutrition Month, with the theme “Kalamidad Paghandaan: Gutom at Malnutrisyon Iwasan”, with the observance of the National Disaster Consciousness Month, both in July, he said.

To prevent hunger and malnutrition, especially during a disasters, one objective of the health sector is to make sure that disaster plans from the national, provincial, city, municipal and barangay levels have pre-identified evacuation centers that can act as temporary shelters for displaced people, and where health authorities can attend to their needs, he added.

Another objective is to mobilize first responders during disasters, calamities and emergencies, such as those belonging to nutrition clusters, comprising scholars, barangay health workers, officials and government agencies, he said, adding that government authorities should continue enhancing partnerships with the religious sector, non-government organizations, civic groups and international donors.

A third objective is to increase awareness of families in coping with disasters and a projected worsening nutrition scenario during emergencies, with the young, old, sick and the poor most likely to be more affected, he added.

Barredo said those most vulnerable to disasters, calamities and conflicts are the infants, young children, pregnant, lactating or breastfeeding women, the elderly, and those suffering from chronic communicable and non-communicable diseases, like diabetes, and those whose immune system has been compromised.

He said the malnutrition rate of Negros Oriental was pegged at 7.4 percent in 2013, from 7.1 percent in 2012.

A 2011 report of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology showed that 20.2 percent of children aged 0 to 5 years old were underweight and 7.3 percent “wasted” or were either acute or moderately underweight, 8.5 percent of children aged 6 to 10 were malnourished (very thin) and 33.6 percent of those aged 5 to 10 years old are stunted, referring to a long period of having inadequate intake of food that prevented their growth, Barredo also said.*JFP