National hunger rate rises

From BusinessWorld 27 October 2011

HUNGER IS AGAIN ON THE RISE, the Social Weather Stations (SWS) said in a new report, with sharp increases in Luzon overwhelming declines in the rest of the country.

One in five households — 21.5% or an estimated 4.3 million families nationwide — experienced having nothing to eat in the last three months, results of a Sept. 4-7 poll made exclusive to BusinessWorld showed.

This was up from the four-year low of 15.1% recorded in June and a point worse than March’s 20.5%. The latest hunger figure — 7.5 points above the 13-year average of 14% — is the worst so far for the Aquino government but is still below the record 24% hit in December 2009 during the previous administration.

A Cabinet official blamed recent storms and higher pump prices for the respondents’ hunger claims, and said the government was working to address the issue especially since more typhoons hit Luzon just after the survey period.

The moderate and severe hunger components of the overall score worsened, with the former up nearly five points to 18% (3.6 million families) and the latter gaining 1.5 points to 3.5% (713,000 families). Both were also above the 13-year averages.

“Moderate” refers to experiencing having nothing to eat “only once” or “a few times” in the last three months, while “severe” involves going hungry “often” or “always.”

Overall hunger climbed sharply in Balance Luzon, hitting a record 28.3% (2.5 million families) from 9.7% previously. The previous peak of 25% was hit in March this year.

Overall hunger was also 10 points up in Metro Manila to 23% (647,000 families).

The surge in both regions swamped an 8.7-point decline in Mindanao to 13% (620,000 families) and a slightly smaller 5.7-point improvement in the Visayas to 15.3% (587,000 families).

Broken down, moderate hunger hit a record 24.3% in Balance Luzon, up 16.6 points from June and surpassing the previous peak of 18.7% in March 2011. The latest level is 14 points above the 13-year average of 10.3%.

Moderate hunger also rose by 5.4 points in Metro Manila, bouncing to 16.7% in September from 11.3% in June and returning to the level of March 2011.

It was down nine points in Mindanao to 11.0% and fell by 5.3 points in the Visayas to 13.0%.

The SWS said the latest moderate hunger rates are higher than their 13-year averages in all areas except Mindanao.

Severe hunger, meanwhile, was highest in Metro Manila, rising by 4.6 points to 6.3% — the highest since December 2009’s 7.3% and 2.8 points above the 13-year average of 3.5%.

It rose by two points in Balance Luzon, to 4.0% (above the 13-year average of 3.0%), and by 0.3 points in Mindanao to 2.0% (below the 13-year average of 4.2%).

Severe hunger was down in the Visayas to 2.3% from 2.7% in June, below the 13-year average of 3.2% for the region.

Asked to comment on the SWS report, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon J. Soliman said the increased claims of having gone hungry were probably due to typhoons, such as Juaning that hit the country in July.

“Balance Luzon, that’s where the typhoons passed, from Juaning — in Region II (Cagayan Valley), part of Region III (Central Luzon), Region I (Ilocos), and CAR (Cordillera Autonomous Region) — and now even more,” she said.

Ms. Soliman said the government response has been to run the cash-for-work program and early recovery work.

“We are augmenting this…and we are doing a massive feeding of hot meals through the National Nutrition Council [in areas] where hunger is high,” the Cabinet official added.

As for Metro Manila, which was less affected by the typhoons, Ms. Soliman said the “perception of hunger” was due to the fuel price increases and its effect on food costs.

“I think it’s the food prices because the increase of gasoline … but at the same time that this was happening we were expanding the conditional cash transfer and the rice subsidy was being provided for,” she said.

Ms. Soliman claimed that for the long-term, the Aquino administration’s human development cluster was looking to set up a more responsive targeting system.

“We also have to monitor from the government side and assess the interventions that we are doing on hunger. We welcome the survey of SWS; we just want to complement it and be more focused on assessing if our programs are addressing the causes of hunger, and the measures that we are doing — are we mitigating it, or do we do more?” she said.

The SWS polled 1,200 adults nationwide. The error margins used were ±3% for national and ±6% for area percentages. —from a report by J. P. D. Poblete

Article location : hunger rate rises&id=40606

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