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Manila, PHILIPPINES — Nutrition International launched the ‘Right Start Initiative’ in the Philippines to improve nutrition for pregnant women, newborns, infants and young children in the country through a $CAN 4.3M (176M Philippines Peso) investment over five years to 2020. The launch was held jointly with the Government of the Philippines’ Department of Health.

Supported by the Government of Canada, Right Start aims to reduce anaemia in pregnant women and young children, and low birth weight in newborns. It also seeks to avert deaths in infants and children under five by focusing on improving nutrition during the 1,000-day window (from conception to a child’s second birthday.)

Through this program, Nutrition International will work with the Department of Health and local government units to strengthen nutrition-specific policies and guidelines, build the capacity of healthcare service providers to promote and deliver interventions to improve care for women, reducing risks to their health ― and the health of their newborns and children.

Nutrition International will work to ensure pregnant and lactating women receive iron-folic acid supplements and are counselled well on feeding practices in order to reduce anaemia and folate deficiency cases within this population. It will also ensure children receive micronutrient powders in order to ensure they get the nutrition they need to be healthy. In total, more than 230,000 women, newborns, infants and children across 45 municipalities in 7 provinces of Philippines will benefit from Right Start interventions.

 The Philippines is a new country of operation for Nutrition International, and we are pleased to see that nutrition has been made a priority. Through Right Start, we will work closely with the Government of the Philippines, local government units, as well as our development partners to support efforts to end malnutrition, especially for women, newborns and children, who hold the promise for a better future.
Andrew O’Connell, Regional Director for Nutrition International in Asia


Malnutrition is one of the most persistent barriers to prosperity, growth and human development. Good nutrition, health and care in the first 1,000 days assures the ‘right start’ to life. The Department of Health through the Philippines Plan of Action for Nutrition, advocates for better health and nutrition for all Filipinos. We are grateful for Nutrition International’s support to improve nutrition, especially for vulnerable groups such as children, pregnant and lactating women, to prevent nutritional deficiencies and ensure better health outcomes. We look forward to working closely with Nutrition International to reduce malnutrition in Philippines.
Dr. Maria Joyce U. Ducusin, Director of Family Health, Department of Health

The Philippines has seen many improvements in health indicators, yet the burden of undernutrition remains significant. One out of five newborns are born too small. Stunting affects nearly 40 per cent of two-year-olds. A quarter of all of pregnant women are anaemic. Micronutrient powder supplementation for infants and young children, introduced by the Department of Health, only reaches a fifth of the targeted children. 65 per cent of mothers initiated breastfeeding within one hour after delivery. However, only one in four, five-month-olds were being exclusively breastfed, and only 29 per cent of children six to 23 months of age met the minimum dietary diversity.

The main interventions of the Right Start Program in the Philippines include:

  1. Supporting the government to update policies and guidelines and come up with local nutrition action plans for delivering nutrition services (micronutrient and dietary supplementation, nutrition education and counselling) in the 1,000-day window.
  2. Training community health workers and equipping them with job aids and tracking tools to improve their skills in: promoting adherence to IFA supplementation for pregnant women, infant and young child nutrition, and providing multiple micronutrient powders for infants.
  3. Organizing nutrition and breastfeeding support groups for: nutrition education, counselling, client and service delivery tracking, and guiding mothers or caregivers on exclusive breastfeeding, complementary feeding and adding multiple micronutrient powders.
  4. Increasing coverage of iron and folic acid supplements among pregnant women, exclusive breastfeeding among infants and micronutrient powder supplementation for infants.

“Canada recognizes the urgency to address malnutrition. The important link between improved nutrition and women’s empowerment is a key component of Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy. As part of this commitment, our support continues to focus on providing access to quality healthcare and nutrition in impoverished communities in the world. I congratulate Nutrition International on the launch of Right Start in Philippines and look forward to working with all our partners to make this initiative a success,” said His Excellency John T. Holmes, Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines.

“The launch of the Right Start Initiative in the Philippines comes at the opportune time when the Province of Antique is strengthening its nutrition program and expanding delivery of nutrition interventions. We are grateful that the province was selected as a project site, as we will be able to not only provide the needed focus to a child’s critical development period of the 1,000 day-window but also accelerate implementation of key nutrition interventions for both mother and child,” said the Honourable Rhodora Cadiao, Governor, Province of Antique.

“It is our privilege to work with the Government of Philippines to improve nutrition for vulnerable populations, including women and children. We are determined to work together to reduce malnutrition in the Philippines, helping to build the next generation of healthy and productive Filipinos,” said Nutrition International Country Director for Philippines, Dr. Loreto Roquero Jr.

UNICEF, Helen Keller International and other development partners are supporting Nutrition International in implementing the Right Start intervention in the Philippines.

The Right Start Initiative is a multi-million dollar, multi-faceted initiative, supported by Global Affairs Canada (Government of Canada), aiming to reach over 100 million women, adolescent girls, newborns and young children with improved nutrition in nine countries across Asia and Africa.

For more information, download the Right Start Philippines fact sheet (PDF) or infographic (PDF)