I was speechless when I was told by the Teacher-In-Charge of a school where we (together with the National 4H Club Federation) are partnering a feeding program that the recipients of the feeding program are children who are classified as ‘severely wasted”. I was like what???? Sir, why call them that? It is as if they have no more value in society! He told me that it is the correct term used.
Severely wasted children are those who are way below the standards for indices under weight-for-height, height-for-age and weight-for-age. These are WHO standards, I was told. While my mind understands the explanation, my heart is protesting rather strongly. For me, referring to children as severely wasted is tantamount to calling them garbage.
My sensibilities continue to be outraged especially in connection with the feeding program that we are promoting. The program feeds meat and vegetable lunch to the children for four months. The implication in my very elementary mind is that vegetables and wastes should not be associated together because it leads to a bad connotation. Children might think that vegetables are good for wastes and we may have a hard time telling them to eat it.
In my younger years when everything was so simple and that the world is not a fingertip away, we call those children malnourished or undernourished. Then to correct the situation, we have to give them nourishment. I felt it was more pleasant to hear and that in the context of our Philippine culture, it is more politically correct.
I sincerely believe that we can make our own labels. If it affects the sensibilities of our people, then by all means, we could refuse to use such terms even if the international community does. That’s what makes every culture unique. We have to preserve this uniqueness despite the advances of the modern world. At the end of the day, it is we who lives by that labels and not others.