A nutritional programme aimed at improving maternal and child health with iron and folic acid supplementation and optimum child feeding practice was launched by the UNICEF Philippines, Nutrition International, with the cooperation of Department of Health (DOH). 

Under the 'Right Start Initiative,' pregnant morhers and post-partum mothers will receive iron folic acid supplement, and will be taught optimum infant and young child-feeding practices. 

Provisions will be available to some 91,000 pregnant women and 142,00 children between the ages of 6-23 in 45 municipalities nationwide.

Basud, Mercedes and Capalongan in Camarines Sur, and Leon Postigo, Zambianga and Monreal, Masbate will be the first five municipalities to  implement the programme, according to Unicef Philippines.

In 2013, UNICEF noted that the national prevalence of Vitamin A deficiency among children below the age of 5 was at 20.4 percent, and anaemia at more than 15 percent.

"Micro-nutrient deficiencies, along with low exclusive breastfeeding rates and diets that  do not meet minimum standards thus warrant actions to enhance proper infant and young child feeding practices," the international body said in a statement.

Pregnant mothers who do not receive sufficient amounts of iron and folic acid are at risk of hindering the proper growth of their fetus. Iron deficiency anemia among pregnant mothers could result in infants with low birth weight. Folic acid deficiency can cause birth defects such as neural tube defects.

"UNICEF Philippines congratulates Nutrition International for the launch of this very important initiative. We welcome and recognize the Right Start Initiative as a significant milestone that contributes to improving the nutritional status of Filipinos - especially the women and vulnerable children," said UNICEF Representative to the Philippines Lotta Sylwander.

The UNICEF is a United Nation's programme that provides humanitarian and developmental assistance to children and mothers in developing countries. It is based in New York City. The Nutrition International, meanwhile, is a Canada based non-government organization committed to eliminating vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

UNICEF is likewise collaborating with the DOH in developing polices for women and vulnerable children.

Currently, the Right Start Quantitative is being implemented in several developing countries. MIMS