ALABEL, Sarangani (February 6, 2023) – “When we go to the field, the poor has a lot to teach us about life, survival, and resilience.”
Inside a small, dilapidated hut in a distant sitio in Barangay Spring in Alabel lives a child of 3 who is below his requisite weight. He is Denver.
Denver, who is supposed to be at least 14 kilograms for a three-year-old, weighs only 8.5kgs and is considered Severely Underweight (SUW) or Severely Stunting (SST).
As the World Health Organization defines stunting as “low height-for-age. It is the result of chronic or recurrent undernutrition, usually associated with poverty, poor maternal health and nutrition, frequent illness, and/or inappropriate feeding and care in early life. Stunting prevents children from reaching their physical and cognitive potential.”
However, Denver is not the only undernourished one in the family; so are his four elder siblings, and even their mother.
Denver and his family’s case is only one of the many cases of malnutrition in the country and in the entire world. His is one in more than 3,000 cases in Sarangani province.
Cases like Denver’s are what pushed the Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF) to partner with local government units (LGUs), especially with Sarangani LGU, to create ideas and take actions that could help address health and nutrition challenges in the community.
This is where the concept of ZFF’s “deep dive” comes in. Deep dive, as defined by ZFF Consultant Professor Hadji Balajadia, is an “adult-learning journey where the participant directly experiences the challenges of a system from the perspective of other stakeholders. It is seeing the reality of a situation from the field and seeing it with fresh eyes.”
The objective of a deep dive is to “move us into a different sense and see it from a vantage point as a program implementer, where could I contribute?”
The deep dive done by the ZFF and Governor Rogelio Pacquiao’s core team to Denver’s family on February 3 spoke a lot about the health and nutrition challenges of some of the poor families in the province.
ZFF disclosed that Denver’s mother is a housewife, while his father is a farmer and a laborer with no regular income and only earns at least P1,500-P2,000 a month.
Factors that could have affected the child’s nutrition include the family regularly consuming “cassava, banana, and other root crops from their backyard, while only at times corn grits or rice and fish are served when they get to have extra money.”
Even their water source is only from a shared faucet which is 3 to 4 kilometers away from their home.
During the intimate encounter with Denver and his mother, the ZFF and the core team also learned that Denver’s health condition has affected some parts of the child’s brain. “We see the face of malnutrition in Denver’s social awkwardness and delayed speech,” Balajadia said.
Emotional, the mother expressed her gratitude to ZFF and the governor’s core team for visiting their family and for checking up on them, providing them with food packs and health kits, and for giving her hope for her children.
“Nakaabot mo diri gud bisag layo mi ba,” the mother cried when the immersion team was about to wrap-up the visit.
Balajadia hoped that with this immersion, the governor’s core team “will see the reality on the ground from a different perspective, and that is on a personal way. Not just as a program implementer but also as a person.”
“Through listening and close encounter with stories and families, this will help us arrive at creative and innovative ways for sustainable interventions,” he added.
The ZFF designed this activity for the governor and his core team in order to help the governor and his administration achieve his vision for nutrition of “No New Stunting by 2025 in Sarangani.”
Through this design, Balajadia trusts that “the core team of the governor will help him scaffold and support him in terms of running out and investing in the health and nutrition programs of the province.”
The governor’s core team who participated in the deep dive included the Chief of Staff of the Governor, Atty. Stephany Velasco-Datig; Ronda Probinsya Program Coordinator Paul Allen Villamora; Provincial Health Officer Dr. Arvin Alejandro; Provincial Nutrition Coordinator Charise Jabines-Posadas; Board Member Joseph Calanao; Buenaventura Solarte of the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office; and Agnes Du of the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist. (Jori Mae R. Samillano/SARANGANI PROVINCIAL INFORMATION OFFICE)
Photos by Jake Narte