Every day, 95 children in the Philippines die from malnutrition. Twenty-seven out of 1,000 Filipino children do not get past their fifth birthday. A third of Filipino children are stunted or short for their age. Stunting after 2 years of age can be permanent, irreversible and even fatal.

Malnutrition in the Philippines is caused by a host of interrelated factors – health, physical, social, economic and others. While reports indicate that there is enough food to feed the country, many Filipinos continue to go hungry and become malnourished due to inadequate intake of food and nutrients.

Causes of malnutrition include inappropriate dietary choices, a low income, difficulty obtaining food, and various physical and mental health conditions. Under nutrition is one type of malnutrition. It occurs when the body does not get enough food.

One of the provinces in the Philippines which suffered from a severe malnutrition is Bohol. In fact, as reported in “The Bohol Chronicle” published on February 21, 2021, Bohol is said to be a first class province that is still facing severe malnutrition. Bohol continues to face problems of under nutrition such as stunting, wasting and specific nutrient deficiencies that seriously affect children and mother.

Because of this, the government is worried that malnutrition and the stunting of Boholano children will worsen because of Covid-19, which has displaced thousands of workers and even disrupted the operation of some small or big businesses.

As the Tzu Chi Foundation responds to the needs of the poor children, showing love and generosity to them, children ages five and below will be given a multigrain supplement which could help them boost their immunity, make them healthy, and achieve the correct body mass index appropriate for their age.

The Jing Si Multigrain Instant Mix, provided by the Tzu Chi Foundation, a Taiwanese product, which is a mixture of grounded grains, beans, malt extract powder, and mixed Chinese herbs. This powder is rich in calcium and iron, which both helps the heart, nerves, and muscles work the way they should.

Brother Joven Uy, Tzu Chi Volunteer, told the scholars to look for children in their area who suffered malnutrition. As part of their duty hours, scholars will have to monitor the child, feeding them using the multigrain supplement, and see if there will be changes on the child’s body mass index (BMI).

There were 2,950 packs of multigrain supplements arrived in Bohol on November 11, 2020.  Volunteer-staff Ma. Lea Ortiz and Mariel Amistoso, both from the Medical Department, explained to the scholars what multigrain is and its significance on December 20, 2020 during December’s Humanity class, each scholar was also given 1 pack of it.

One of the Tzu Chi scholars who was given the supplement is Jerica Penaroya, 18, Architecture student, from Tiptip District, Tagbilaran City, Bohol. This multigrain supplement will be given to Romarick Montipon, a malnourished child who is also her neighbor.

On the 17th day of February 2021, Tzu Chi volunteers together with Tzu Chi Scholar, Jerica, visited the home of Ms. Lydia Lucresio in Purok 5 Tiptip District, Tagbilaran City, Bohol.

The volunteers went into Romarick Montipon, in lounging clothes with dishevelled hairs, playing outdoors with his friends and chickens while swinging on the rope cradle.

Their home is located 500m away from the city road, so the team has to walk for a few minutes along the bumpy and muddy pavements. Its structure is wrapped with mangled sacks and made up of woods. However, the land property where their house lies is not their own.

“My eldest son, Romarick, has a severe malnourished condition and a blue baby syndrome that have hindered his growth development for years,” said Lydia, 46, a housewife, the mother of Romarick.

Romarick, 6 years old, was born as a premature baby, currently weighs 9kg, measures 89 cm tall, and has chronic health issues, ensuing him to repeatedly require hospital care when he was still a newborn. On the other hand, his younger sister, Mary Rose, 4 years old, was born as a healthy baby, measures 100 cm tall, and currently weighs 15kg.

“His malnourished condition has also been affected by the food that he eats as we were not able to compensate for the healthy food, which are vital for maintaining health and fitness, in view of our unstable financial conditions as my partner, Felix Montipon, who is only a laborer.” she added.

Subsequently, Jerica Penaroya heeded the call for helping the poor child by giving him the Jing Si Multigrain Instant Mix and will be given 4 packs in a month. Firstly, Mrs. Lydia boiled 130ml of tap water through a traditional stove with metal tripods and firewoods, as they have no available cooking appliances. Next, Jerica added 3 and a half tablespoons of powder on the warm water. Then, she mixed it well and a sediment of grains can be visibly found settling at the surface of the drink.

“As I was serving him the food, I evidently saw his sparkling eyes that made me simply feel so gruntled. I am so thankful for the Tzu Chi Foundation for this favorable chance. By that, we can truly spread love and goodness of mankind even in the smallest ways,” Jerica said happily.

One of the reasons why Lydia chose to be at home with her children is she has been enduring severe flank pain on both sides of her back.

“I had a kidney stone operation last September 26, 2019 at Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu city funded by a certain charity. Unfortunately, according to my recent test results – there are other new stones that are gradually growing both in my right and left kidneys,” said Lydia.

She was diagnosed by Dr. Rances of the City Health Center on the 20th day of November 2020 with a kidney problem called Secondary bilateral Staghorn calculi, otherwise known as coral calculi, refers to stones involving the renal pelvis and extending into at least two calyces. She was prescribed by her physician with oral medications.

That day is not her first time to receive a compassionate service from the Tzu Chi Volunteers. Before, Sir Joven visited her family and brought rice packs as she was told by her good neighbours that they are the ones that most in need help along that particular area.

“I am so thankful for the selfless services rendered by the Tzu Chi Foundation to my family. Pertaining to that, I am asking for help once again, if someone could help me to undergo an operation in order to treat my disease, I would – because I still want to be with my children or help me bring my son for a medical check-up to find any of his health complications that we failed to notice,” She added.

Obviously, Romarick, even if he’s in teensy-weensy appearance, is the greatest angel that God bestowed to their small family. His smiles are as sweet as a summer jackfruit and his eyes are filled with sanguine grace. He may have looked with extreme healthcare needs but the depth of his mother’s love and strength is simply boundless.

Jerica wanted to see the improvements of Romarick’s condition after taking the multigrain several times and hoping that the child’s condition would become better.

As of today, March 8, 2021, there were total of 223 malnourished children who were given Jing Si Multigrain Instant Mix monitored by the scholars and will receive 4 packs in a month.

Undoubtedly, we can never underestimate the importance of helping people in small ways, as these little things can truly make a big difference.

This family proves that hope keeps a warm home for your soul to firmly anticipate great things in the future, no matter how many obstacles or difficulties that they have to face along the way. Thus, the most important thing is that they never lose hope because nothing in this world is impossible.