Philippines recommended to target Zero Hunger

Amid soaring economy, UN exec urges PH to address widespread hunger

INTERAKYSYON | 27 February 2015 – The economic growth being enjoyed by the Philippines isn’t inclusive and has in fact failed to solve widespread hunger among millions of Filipinos.

This is the observation made by Hilal Elver, the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to food, who’s on a seven-day visit to the Philippines from February 20 to 27 to assess the status of the country’s efforts toward addressing hunger.

“I have observed significant disparities in Manila with many seemingly benefitting from all the comforts of modern life, others are forced to live in extremely precarious conditions,” Elver said in her report, citing the poor families and the famished children she met during her visit to poor rural areas in Luzon and in Yolanda-hit Tacloban City.

“Unable to produce their own food they are vulnerable to food price hikes, and any money they have spent on the little food they can afford, with nothing left over to cover other basic necessities such as access to healthcare, medication, or to cover the cost of basic school materials,” she added.

Elver recommended that the Philippines immediately pass the Right to Adequate Food Bill that targets zero hunger in 10 years.

She said having a law that would uphold the Filipinos’ right to adequate food and nutrition “would be a good legacy” for President Benigno Aquino III.

“(I)t would be a good-faith, symbolic ending to his career,” Elver told reporters.

PhilippinesPhilippine economy continues to soar under the Aquino administration consistently beating market expectations and the government’s own target, making it among Asia’s best performing economies.

In 2012, the country’s gross domestic product growth reached 6.6 percent and further expanded with a 7.2 percent-GDP growth in 2013.

During the 4th quarter of 2014, the economy rebounded more strongly than expected as it posted a GDP growth of 6.9 percent.

However, studies show that the Philippines is finding it difficult to address hunger incidence despite the country’s outstanding economic performance.

In his February 2015 study titled Rice Price, Job Misery, Hunger Incidence: Need to Track Few More Statistical Indicators for the Poor, Professor Dennis S. Mapa of the University of the Philippines School of Statistics said, “Reducing hunger incidence in the country is still the major policy challenge confronting our leaders today.”

According to Mapa, “statistics on hunger produced by both government and private institutions show a very slow reduction in hunger incidence over the last five years.”

He said that based on official data from Philippines Statistics Authority, the percentage of Filipinos experiencing extreme poverty (hunger) decreased only slightly from 10.9 percent of the population in 2009 to 10.4 percent in 2012 and increasing marginally to 10.7 percent during the 1st semester of 2013.

He also cited the results of the 8th National Nutrition Survey of 2013 by the Food Nutrition and Research Institute (showing the same small reduction in the proportion of children aged 0-5 who are underweight (indirect measure of hunger) from 20.7 percent in 2008 to 19.8 percent in 2013.

Moreover, Mapa said self-rated hunger incidence data from the Social Weather Stations “reveal a similar bleak picture” where hunger incidence in households averaging at 19.5 percent in 2013 from 19.1 percent in 2009, slowing down slightly to an average of 18.3 percent in 2014.

“This slow reduction in hunger incidence is a puzzle considering the country’s respectable economic growth performance, with Real Gross Domestic Product growing at an annual average of 6.3 percent during the period 2010-2014,” said Mapa.

Meanwhile, according to the 2014 global nutrition report by the International Food Policy Research Institute, the Philippines was not likely to meet the following nutrition targets of the World Health Assembly: reducing child stunting by 40 percent; reducing anemia in women of reproductive age by 50 percent; reducing low birth weight by 30 percent; preventing an increase in child overweight; increasing exclusive breastfeeding of infants up to at least 50 percent; and reducing and maintaining child wasting to less than 5 percent.