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In December 2021, Typhoon Odette made landfall in the Philippines. The devastation displaced more than 680,000 people who sought shelter at evacuation sites. More than 2.4 million people were impacted by the storm and its aftermath.

Wanting to help those reeling from the effects of the typhoon, Nutrition International and Helen Keller International worked together to hand out rice packs to a total of 7,560 families across 420 barangays – or villages – in the provinces of Cebu, Bohol and Iloilo. The distribution was led by provincial project coordinators, municipal health officers, nutrition action officers and mayors, along with the focal leads of the Barangay First 1,000 Days (BF1KD) program.

Along with the food packs, the team also disseminated communications material on the first 1,000 days – from conception to a child’s second birthday – to ensure pregnant women and mothers did not overlook health and nutrition during the crisis.

“Health and nutrition are often overlooked amidst situations of emergency and disasters,” said Dr. Loreto B. Roquero, Country Director for Nutrition International in the Philippines. “At Nutrition International, we believe in promoting positive nutrition practices that nourish lives. Good nutrition is even more critical for vulnerable members of the community including pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and young children who have higher nutritional needs, which if not fulfilled can have long term effects. We are thankful for the support of the local officials who understood this need and supported us in the distribution drives.”

Launched in 2018, the BF1KD program was developed by Nutrition International in partnership with the Philippines’ Department of Health and Helen Keller International. The program is a barangay-led mother-to-mother support group where pregnant and lactating women learn about nutrition-specific interventions aimed at improving their and their newborns’ health.

“Our crops such as banana, malunggay, and nuts were destroyed in the typhoon,” said Irene Similong, a pregnant woman from Cebu Province. “The rice distribution was a timely intervention for us since our rice reserve had been used up and my husband had also not received his salary. The nutrition messages were helpful as it kept me mentally aware of the diet choices to suffice my own nutrition requirements, and those of my baby.”