Gota de Leche, registered in 1907 as La Proteccion de la Infancia Inc., is the country’s oldest citizen-led charity organization, providing nutrition support to indigent malnourished children and breastfeeding mothers in the National Capital Region. It has never stopped operations even in war or disaster for over a century.
Gota de Leche is an accredited Social Welfare Development Agency, legally qualified as a recipient or implementing entity of government funds. It is located in the Gota de Leche Heritage Building, declared an Important Cultural Property by the National Museum of the Philippines.
Through war, epidemics, and other disasters, Gota de Leche has sought to respond to the expanding needs of the poor in Metro Manila, Luzon, and the Visayas. Its main program for children has been supplemented by three other programs.
1.Gota de Leche: The Milk Program for Children
As a 115-year-old program to rescue poor children of pre-school age from hunger and malnutrition, Gota de Leche provides milk, food supplements, and medical services. Gota de Leche’s system aims to reverse the health status of large groups of indigent children from wasted to normal growth.
Each year, between 200 and 350 beneficiaries are enrolled for a period of 10 to 12 months in a program that includes monthly medical check-ups, food supplements, fresh vegetables, and full cream milk for children between 3 and 6 years old. Other services include dental treatment and nutrition workshops, as well as various activities to stimulate mental development are organized in cooperation with other organizations and institutions.
The Philippines is among the 5 countries in Asia with the highest number of stunted and wasted children. While cases of very low birth weight, stunting and malnutrition of mother during pregnancy were what inspired Gota de Leche to create it Program 2 (see below), Gota’s own experience and other studies have validated the need to focus on nutrition support for stunted and disabled children up to their second 1000 days. This is why Gota de Leche remains perhaps the only institution in the country that continues its quest to build up the health status and immune system of very young children with disabilities in the poorest economic level of our society.
2. Nutrition Support for Pregnant and Lactating Women (PLW)
The right to adequate nutrition is a fundamental, foundational right for children. But because 1 in 3 young Filipinos are stunted, Gota de Leche initiates nutrition interventions for women in target communities every month.
These are high-protein and vitamin-enhanced rice meal packs that will help strengthen mothers whose dietary intake may be inadequate. Monthly medical check-ups of both mother and child are conducted by medical practitioners, while food supplements and vitamins are distributed.
But as the Covid19 pandemic continues to rage in the most crowded cities of the country, women living in quarantined areas have become more vulnerable to sexual assaults, violence, and unplanned pregnancy, even at a very young age. Gota de Leche’s efforts to re-provide nutrition support and health services have been limited by travel restrictions, making digital communication and information sharing through cell phones and main means to reaching them and their families.
3. Post-disaster Relief and Nutrition Support Outreach (RNS)
This program responds to the needs of poor communities whose food supplies for children and PLW are affected by Climate Change and Natural Disasters, most especially those in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas. Urgent relief and intermediate feeding projects are established in these areas together with volunteers and local NGO partners in the Cordillera Autonomous Region, in Central Luzon, in Western and Central Visayas.
4. Heritage Conservation
Because Gota de Leche Building declared an Important Cultural Property by the National Museum in early 2014, the organization has a duty to find ways to maintain and conserve the century-old building, as well as the archives, photographs, and heritage properties in its care, as a legacy of the Filipino people. A project is ongoing to digitize, translate and promote the historical significance of the content of the Gota de Leche Archives.