Chaotic Sound Chamber

Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. lofted  a trial  balloon  Monday.  He may make a 2016 presidential run, said the 47 year old actor-governor-turned senator. Ma-aga pa na man. English doesn’t catch all the nuances of the word garapal.

“If you can’t  raise a billion pesos, why run?”, rags-to-riches 64 year old Sen. Manuel Villar told Reuters. Villar lobbed President Joseph Estrada’s  impeachment to the Senate without catching a breath after his opening prayer. He owns a P48 billion real estate firm and dealt  himself into the  race. A less-affluent  President Benigno Aquino trashed Villar in 2010 polls.  “I  dislike millionaires, “ writer Mark Twain joked.  “But it’d  be dangerous to offer me the position.”

Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr.  frets  at “ the starting line”. He churns out press releases on everything  — except  last year’s  $353.6 million fine by the US Federal Court.  Bongbong  tried to smuggle  paintings  from judicially contested hearings, the 9th circuit court fumed.  Marcos Jr. ducks.

Who of our  kids meanwhile will die?  Infant death rates here stagnated at 19 per 100,000 births. Compare that to Taiwan’s  6. The toll resembles that of  Ecuador. Yes, the Ecuador  that former  US national security contractor Edward Snowden, accused of espionage, would snuck into and  shake off pursuing US federal posses.

How many under-5 years-old  infants will  slump into premature graves?  Here,  25 for every 1,000,  a UN Interagency Group reports. We’re bracketed with oil-flush Iran, ruled by ayatollahs.  It is 7 for Malaysia.  

And how  many will  achieve  what the Psalmist writes?  “Seventy is the sum of our years, eighty if we are strong” .  Don’t ask Revilla. In Cavite, functional illiteracy stood at 9 percent,  the last time “Philippine Human Development Report “(PHDR) looked.  And 7 percent  lacked “improved water sources”.  Life expectancy today for Filipinos and Guatemalans is 73, World Health Organization estimates. A Singaporean can live to 82.

But lust for power blinds. Today’s “candidates” plot well past midnights on how to grab political advantage. “ “Let me have men about me that are fat, /Sleek-headed men such as sleep a-nights,” Shakespeare’s Ceasar mutters  to  Antony.  “Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; /He thinks too much…”

A  study on the Philippines, Brazil, India, South Africa and Guatemala found  that : “Interventions  during  first two years of life (of a child)  “are likely to result in substantial gains” in height,  schooling,  the  research  journal  “Lancet” (March 28, 2013 ) reported. They  “give some protection from adult chronic disease.  Adverse trade offs are few”.

How would  Bongbong react?  In Ilocos Norte, the poorest 10 percent make do with three centavos of every peso while the richest get 28 centavos, PHDR says. And that doesn’t include secret dollar accounts in the Virgin Island.

Tracking of 3,080 mothers and infants from 243  Cebu barangays, partly anchors this analysis.  The late Fr. Wilhelm Flieger, SVD crafted the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey at  University of San Carlos Office of Population Studies in 1983. “Yesterday’s infants are today’s adults,” Viewpoint reported (PDI /June 25, 2012 ). ”Some are parents and hold down jobs. There are school dropouts. A number have died and 136 moved out. One is an OFW worker in Iceland.” In 2011,  San Carlos completed its examination of new pregnancies and births among  once 1983 infants. This “makes CLHNS a three-generation study.”

Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the new  analysis  covers  8,362  participants in three age periods: 0-2 years; 2  years to mid-childhood; and mid-childhood to adult stage.  Brazil failed to track 17 percent of infants, studied by Universidade Federal de Pelotas, into adulthood. “ Guatemala and Cebu showed marked growth failure in early childhood.  South Africa and  India showed intermediate patterns.

“The bottom line” for decisive intervention is the first 24 months of  a child’s life. “Act there,” Cesar  Victoria of  Brazil  stressed  earlier. Dividends in a  child’s health dwindle in the third year onwards. “Our findings suggest that interventions to increase birth  weight and linear growth during the first 2 years of life are likely to result in substantial gains in height and schooling,”  Lancet adds.

Malnourished pregnant mothers result in “stunting” of kids,  lower attained schooling, reduced adult income”. Indeed, “stunting today is the most prevalent nutritional challenge in developing nations,” the G8 summit  heard, mid-June at Enniskillen, Northern Ireland.  Worldwide, 165 million children are affected.” (In Philippine kindergarten and primary classes, 562,262 pupils are “severely wasted.”) World Bank boosted this year’s funding for child nutrition from $230 million to $600 million. European Union pledged an extra $500 million for related projects.

Except for Sub-Saharan Africa, mortality and under- nutrition are falling substantially in most parts of the world.  New targets are now being formulated  to replace the 2015 Millennium Development Goals.  This five country study  “provides strong justification for the proposal of a new goal, namely a reduction in stunting,” adds the Lancet report. This would replace the present target which is narrowly constricted to whittling down underweight.

Filipino politics is a chaotic sound chamber. The most strident  voices erupt  from  would be 2016  candidates who clone yesterday’s trapos. They drown out the whimper of vulnerable infants  and emaciated mothers.  And that silencing  guts our common humanity.

(Email: juan_mercado77@yahoo.com)

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