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  • Judy Santiago

#IdeasPositiveRun5: Fighting Malnutrition with Fortified Fountains

Malnutrition and the lack of potable water in Bacolod City National High School inspired a group of medical students from University of St. La Salle-Bacolod to team up and make a positive change. Team Nutri-Five vowed to solve these health issues in BCNHS by “hitting two birds with one stone.”

"Nabal-an ko nga mag-an akon bug-at sang Grade 5 ako asta subong wala man ko nag bug-at amo man gihapon (I knew that I’ve been underweight since Grade 5, but since then, nothing’s changed. I’m still underweight),” says Paul Chua, a Grade 8 student of Bacolod City National High School (BCNHS). Paul is just one among the 105 identified students with severely wasted health status in BCNHS.

“One out of ten or 10 percent of the whole student population in BCNHS is malnourished,” reveals Riza June Castillon, the lone nurse of the city’s largest high school. Throughout her four years of service, nurse Riza admits, the school has sought to augment the health needs of their students. However, aside from basic health services in their clinic, they can only offer a once-a-month feeding program for the students.

Aside from malnutrition, access to clean drinking water is another issue faced by BCNHS students. A cup of water from the cafeteria costs 2 pesos. For a student with an average daily allowance of 20 pesos for a full day of classes from 7:30 am to 5:00 pm, quenching one’s thirst is quite a luxury.

Malnutrition and the lack of potable water in BCNHS inspired a group of medical students from University of St. La Salle-Bacolod to team up and make a positive change. Dexie Tapan, Zinnia Zafra, Edibert dela Noche, Katherine Wee, and Izza Puey, who call themselves “Team Nutri-Five,” vowed to solve these health issues in BCNHS by “hitting two birds with one stone.”

That one stone is their positive idea – the provision of micronutrients through a fortified drinking fountain. Yes, it’s what you think it is. Applying the concept of osmosis, Team Nutri-Five designed a specialized drinking fountain, wherein they infused multivitamins into the water filter, giving the students water that nourishes as it hydrates. Sounds like a crazy idea, but the team delivered, and their first fortified drinking fountain was up and running in time for the opening of classes last June.

“Kahit ma-provide sila ng school ng good education, nape-prevent sila ng malnutrition. Nabubully sila. (Even if their school can provide them good education, malnutrition hinders them. Some of them are being bullied). We’re here to break the cycle,” says Dexie. The team believes that bullying is just one of the challenges that malnourished students have to face in school every day.

Their pilot fortified drinking fountain is complemented by a Daily Water Intake Diary and a tumbler to ensure that the severely wasted students document their journey. The fountain is located at the school clinic, under the care of nurse Riza. Thankful kami meron nang source of drinking water, pwede na sila uminom. With the fortified fountain, makaka-aid ito sa malnourished children para mag-improve ang kanilang health status (We are thankful that now we have a source of drinking water. With the fortified fountain, it can also aid the malnourished children to improve their health status),” she says.

But Team Nutri-Five did not stop there. They also conducted health lectures and contests to engage the other students to be healthy as well.

As medical students who are in their junior internship, the team admits joining Ideas Positive is not easy. What drives them is their innate passion to serve. We want to help others. [Ideas Positive] is one way to do that. Paninindigan namin yung pagtulong (We will stand by our commitment to help),” Izza says. “Mabuting training ito, para in the future mas malaki ang magagawa namin (This is good training for us to make a bigger difference in the future). Why not start now?”

This article is part of the #IdeasPositiveRun5 series, which documents the transformation of 14 communities through innovative ideas of 14 youth teams. Follow their story as they build a healthier Philippines, one community at a time! Visit the Ideas Positive official Facebook page.

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