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Moringa – A Missed Opportunity in the Fight Against Malnutrition

By Jonathan Nollora

Moringaling Philippines Foundation


As we press forward and rebuild in this post- pandemic era, I vividly recall the regional military checkpoints that required vaccine cards for entry and infection status confirmation.


During this time, I religiously took moringa capsules daily, confident it was the ultimate 1- 2 punch to combat the virus.


Moringa has been anecdotally accepted for its exceptional antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. But, in 2018, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations officially recognized moringa as a low- cost health enhancer. However, despite its scientifically proven health benefits, cost and accessibility, the DOH and DSWD repeatedly failed to be resourceful and incorporate moringa into its COVID-19 mitigation program and, more recently, the Philippine Multisectoral Nutrition Project (PMNP).


Philippine Multisectoral Nutrition Project (PMNP) began in 2023 in response to a $178 million World Bank loan specifically designed to provide nutrition-specific and nutrition- sensitive components for maternal and child health programs across the 235 local government units (LGUs) in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, as well as 40 municipalities in the BARMM region. More specifically, access to basic nutrition for pregnant and lactating women and children younger than 2 years old to reduce the incidence of malnutrition.


More specifically, access to basic nutrition for pregnant and lactating women and children younger than 2 years old to reduce the incidence of malnutrition.


Yet again, moringa, the FAO recognized low- cost health enhancer, the accepted go to for lactating mothers, the locally available super food does not seem to have been tapped by the DOH and DSWD.


But what is the real cost of malnutrition?


According to the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), the impact of malnutrition goes beyond immediate health concerns, affecting the cognitive development and prospects of undernourished children. Studies show that children who do not receive proper nutrition in their early years are at higher risk of impaired cognitive development, which can hinder their performance in school and later in life. Addressing malnutrition is crucial not only for the health of current generations but also for building the country's human capital, ensuring a skilled labor force and sustainable economic growth in the future.


Childhood stunting or prolonged malnutrition among infants and young children remains a pressing issue and is considered a silent pandemic in the Philippines.


A silent pandemic resulting in the following Philippine rankings:


- 2018: lowest among 79 countries in mathematics, science, and reading in the 2018 PISA (Program for International Student Assessment).


- 2023: 111 out of 199 countries with a below-average IQ of 81.64. a double blow this June 2024: 60 out of 64 countries in creative thinking in the 2024 PISA and the World Bank revealed that the Philippines attained just 0.52 in the Human Capital Index (CHI), indicating that a child born in the country in 2020 may only achieve 52% of their potential productivity by the age of 18. According to the report, this is lower than the average of upper-middle-income countries (MIC) when it comes to human capital development.


All aforementioned metrics can be linked to inadequate prenatal care and childhood nutrition. Put simply, our children are not consuming nutritious meals, impacting brain development with life long consequences.


Is Moringa part of the solution?


In 2013, pediatricians led by Dr. Esterlita Uy and Dr. Enrique Ostrea, Jr., conducted a study in Malolos, Bulacan, to research the effects of moringa-enriched snacks on children aged 3 to 5 years old.


The doctors repeated that malnutrition poses long-term effects on cognitive capacity, scholastic achievement, and economic productivity. Early malnutrition can lead to decreased brain growth and IQ, highlighting the significance of improving nutrition in early childhood for better physical and cognitive development.


The study design involved a single-blind, randomized, controlled trial with a sample size of 222 per group. Results indicated that the treatment group, receiving snacks fortified with Moringa, increased weight by 1.5 kg, IQ scores by 5 points, and hematocrit levels. Anthropometric measurements at the end of the study were significantly higher in both groups, with a higher rate of rise in weight observed in the treatment group utilizing Moringa.


The study's findings underscore the importance of early childhood nutrition interventions in improving neurobehavioral outcomes and potentially increasing future earnings through enhanced cognitive capacities.


“It is our OBLIGATION to the Filipino children.”


In February 2024, Drs. Uy and Ostrea met with members of the Moringaling Philippines Foundation Inc (MPFI) board, Cookie Consunji-Cabangon, and Dr. Isidro Sia to discuss their research and how MPFI could help spark interest in how 9 grams of moringa (2 tsp) a day could potentially have such life- changing effects in all Filipino children.


- understanding iron content fluctuation in moringa


- diligently costing and collaborating with moringa powder manufacturers for a potential nationwide feeding program


- learning about ethical board requirements, costs of support services, and government budgeting


- securing funding (P3,500 for feeding + P5,500 for testing) to obtain the data for the legislation the doctors seek


However, once legislation is enacted and moringa efficacy is accepted, the actual feeding program only costs P3,500 pesos per child per year.


In parallel, MPFI, guided by Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, has been able to meet with both Congressman Mark Enverga and Senator Cynthia Villar to discuss the Moringa Industry Development Bill, which emphasizes the role of moringa in nutrition and maybe get the attention of the DOH and DSWD.


My hopes were kept alive.


As a dedicated volunteer for the MPFI cause, I took charge of reviewing and revising an old moringa house bill previously filed by Mam Gloria. Following that, I promptly circulated copies of the draft to existing and former MPFI members and stakeholders, requesting their valuable feedback and contributions.


I'm incredibly eager, and the real work is just beginning. Despite several similar moringa house bills being filed in Congress in recent years, they have all been either denied or left pending with the House committees. It evident that medical cannabis has gernered more attentionthan moringa, but that's something that might change soon.


The future may seem uncertain, but it's clear that our generation has made mistakes. It's up to us to acknowledge our oversights and ensure our children are equipped to deal with the consequences.


In the words of Dr. Enrique Ostrea Jr., “It is our OBLIGATION to the Filipino children.”


PH lags behind regional peers in human capital development – World Bank report https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/money/ec onomy/911013/philippines-human-capital- development-world-bank/story/


Moringaling Philippines Foundation Inc Rosales, Pangasinan, Philippines www.facebook.com/moringaling.ph moringaling.ph@gmail.com

4 Comments


karen.surasak
3 days ago

brilliant and cost effective solution to malnutrition… we need more of these ideas and passionate people to support these ideas

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Martial Law2
Martial Law2
4 days ago

Ooh. I luv it 😘

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Program Director
Program Director
4 days ago
Replying to

😍

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Program Director
Program Director
5 days ago

July is Nutrition Month! Let's support initiatives to fight malnutrition

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