Tangible Solutions Needed PH Rising level of Involuntary Hunger

Posted by DG, Date posted at December 30, 2022

The latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) data polling statistics on involuntary hunger — more specifically, the query was on being hungry and not having anything to eat — is currently affecting 2.9 million Filipino households at least once in the third quarter of 2022. This means that a family skipped a meal in the covered period of time.

party-list Representative Rodante Marcoleta of Sagip,

The high inflation is making basic needs even harder to reach for the millions that are below or at the threshold of the poverty line. With this happening, basic needs — like food and other necessities are simply going to mean a more dire situation. 

The SWS data profiled an 11.3% hunger rate consisting of 9.1% (estimated 2.3 million households), experiencing moderate hunger and 2.2% (estimated 573,000 households) experiencing severe hunger. Government appointees and duly-elected officials are in a scramble for various suggestions on how to address this alarming number.

Among the proposals that stood out was by party-list Representative Rodante Marcoleta of Sagip, blurting out at a confirmation hearing of the Commission on Appointments (Dec. 6) — that feeding the poor with “food pills”, like the ones astronauts take while in space, could solve the problem.  

Decades-long problem

The SWS started to gather data on involuntary hunger in the second quarter of 1998. The results presented a clear and critical picture of where the country was on this matter. That year, the numbers were high in Mindanao, pointed out by SWS President, Mahar Mangahas. 

From that time, SWS has since regularly conducted surveys on this topic to keep data in check. Heads of families were approached from Metro Manila, the rest of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. The question posed was if their family experience in the last three months: “Did it happen even once that your family experienced hunger and did not have anything to eat? “

There have been 95 surveys since 1998 and in the last 24 years, the record-low of 5.1% was seen in the third quarter of 2003. The all-time high was in the third quarter of 2020 when 30.7% or 7.6 million households experienced being hungry and not having anything to eat as COVID-19 lockdowns had most businesses at a standstill.

Thinking aloud on ‘Astronaut food’

In the Commission on Appointments, the confirmation hearing for Science and Technology Secretary Renato Solidum Jr., Representative Rodante Marcoleta proposed a new idea to address the problem of hunger, especially among the poorest of the poor.

Coming from the nature of how astronauts survive in space even without cooked meals — Marcoleta followed up with the provision of food pills that could last for days or months, to address the high incidence of hunger. 

“I’m thinking aloud that if we could invent food that they can eat, I will give it to our poor countrymen. Even for months that they don’t eat, they will not die. Because when astronauts eat it, it will last for several days, if not months. This is just palliative. Meaning to say, we just have to fill up the gap. In case we can help the poorest of the poor, you can invent a pill or whatever, and I will accept it,” he said.

Marcoleta then proposed to Solidum that we can have something like that of the astronaut’s food. Solidum then said that Filipino scientists have not developed such a food form, and the current situation sees that food reserved for disasters and emergencies available only has a shelf life of six months.. 

Solidum added that the Department of Science and Technology would look into it and assured the Commission on Appointments’ committee that food security is also a concern of the department.

Holistic approach needed 

The urgency and the stunning noise of suggestions have moved Albay Rep. Joey Salceda to ask President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to form a food security cluster in the Cabinet. Salceda brings an emphasis the need for a “more holistic, whole-of-government-way” to address the problem of hunger.

“The purpose [of the food security cluster] is to ensure that inter-agency cooperation is undertaken at the highest levels of government,” Salceda, who is an economist by profession, said.

“We do not have a food security cluster yet, although it would be very useful to have one since food and nutrition issues are beyond just agriculture. They encompass trade, industry, demographic, transport, energy, and even climate change and scientific development issues.”

Other than being chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Salceda, also recommended that Marcos appoint a senior undersecretary or deputy in the Department of Agriculture (DA), of which the President is also the concurrent head. Salceda also included the Bureau of Customs, and the Departments of Transportation, Science and Technology, and National Defense to be part of the food security cluster. 

Addressing the problem at its roots

“Measures to mitigate hunger include increasing food production capacity and productivity, enhancing the efficiency of logistics and food delivery, public infrastructure, and implementation of the food-for-school program are needed.”, stated the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

They also added that while on the demand side, programs that aim at putting money in poor people’s pockets by providing skills, creating employment opportunities for poor and out-of-school youth, and improving access to micro-finance are required to address the problem of hunger.

The United Nations Children’s Fund stressed that “hunger is the leading cause of death in the world. Our planet has provided us with tremendous resources, but unequal access and inefficient handling leave millions of people malnourished. If we promote sustainable agriculture with modern technologies and fair distribution systems, we can sustain the whole world’s population and make sure that nobody will ever suffer from hunger again.”

Well, hopefully, the folks that we all voted to gather and make concrete plans to solve hunger will be able to make things concrete and doable. I do agree with the FAO that jobs are really needed to address poverty first so that families will be able to get sustenance. How about you? Let us know your reactions, suggestions and insights on this, too. Just comment down below and hope to hear from you soon. Thanks!

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