Jessica Apang is a 28-year old mother of three. Their family belongs to the Aeta Tribe who lives in the geographically isolated and disadvantaged mountainous community in Barangay Camias, Porac, Pampanga, Philippines. People in this area sustain life through traditional farming, particularly subsistence farming. Jessica shared, “I typically eat banana and root crops like taro twice a day with my children, and as a parent I usually eat leftover food.” This practice is common in the area making poor maternal health and nutrition a significant health concern in this Aeta Tribe.
In February 2017, Rise Against Hunger Philippines in collaboration with the Department of Health and the Municipal Health Office of Porac, launched the First 1,000 Days partnership program to address child stunting which is at a high of 35% among Filipino children. The Philippines currently ranks 9th worldwide in prevalence of child stunting. Fifty pregnant Aeta women, including Jessica, were selected to receive daily rations of RAH fortified-meal packs from the day their pregnancy was confirmed until their children reach two years old.
According to Jessica, “Since I began receiving RHA fortified-meal packs, I felt happy and satisfied that we have sufficient meals for the day. RHA fortified-meal packs provide more nutrients for us, me and my family; and we are able to eat three times a day, making us stronger to do our daily work.” Edwin Abuque, Barangay Captain of Camias, added, “She became more active in her daily work from the time she started eating RAH fortified-meals. She gained weight together with her children who are also eating the meals. I’m very proud not only of her, but all of the meal recipients because they were able to increase their physical activities at work and they become healthy. I hope that in the future, there will be no undernourished pregnant woman and child in our barangay because of this Program.”
Furthermore, Dr. Lilia Panlilio, Municipal Health Officer of Porac said, “From the commencement of the First 1,000 Days Program, positive response towards preventive health specially that of the beneficiaries was bolstered. The Program encouraged them to actively participate in the different health activities especially in the prenatal checkups and child care services. There was a notable increase in the weight of pregnant women and in the birthweight of their offspring; the babies were noticeably healthier and heavier.” The women participants attributed the improvement in their diet to the provision of RHA fortified-meal packs.
by Glaiza Calayo-Garvilles