MANILA, Philippines – Hunger is often referred to as very complex with no single cause. But for most families in the poorest provinces in the Philippines, the problem can be traced back to livelihood.
According to a 2015 survey sponsored by the World Food Programme (WFP), the top reasons cited for food insecurity in the country’s poorest areas include inadequate income and lack of a regular job, among others.
The face-to-face interviews were conducted by Laylo Research Strategies among 1,600 households in 16 poorest provinces in the country with error margin of ±2.5% for the national and ±10% for each province.
These provinces, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority, include Apayao, Masbate, Negros Oriental, Eastern Samar, Northern Samar, Western Samar, Zamboange del Norte, Bukidnon, Camiguin, Lanao del Norte, North Cotabato, Saranggani, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, and Sulu.
The results showed that 37% of all households surveyed from August 16 to September 5 went hungry in the past 12 months because they did not have enough income to buy food. Meanwhile, 18% went hungry because they did not have a regular job to start with.
Sulu (58%), North Cotabato (50%), and Bukidnon (47%) registered the highest prevalence of households that went hungry due to lack of income.
The other reasons cited for food insecurity included the effects of natural calamities and disasters, possibly related to climate change, given that 90% of households said that rice and corn are part of their family diet.
|REASONS CITED BEHIND FOOD INSECURITY
|Our family has inadequate income
|Our household head has no regular job
|There was drought in our area
|Our household head has no job
|There were strong rains in our area||10%|
About 7% of respondents said that in each month, they had experienced not eating anything in one day. Meanwhile, 5% said they had gone to bed for a number of days on an empty stomach.
Sultan Kudarat led both instances as 22% of respondents experienced hunger a day almost every month, while 16% went hungry for several days each month in the past year.
Meanwhile, 54% of family respondents in Sarangani said they went hungry once a day in some months, while 54% of families in Zamboanga experienced having nothing to eat for several days in some months.
Experiencing food insecurity can lead to malnutrition. This is the reality in the Philippines where, according to the 2015 Regional Overview of Food Insecurity in Asia and the Pacific, approximately 17.5 million Filipinos are still undernourished. (READ: State of PH nutrition: The last 5 years)
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations defines food insecurity as a situation when people “lack secure access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food for normal growth and development and an active and healthy life.”
The prevailing yet very solvable problem can be addressed by providing means for families to access adequate amounts of food.
Many studies say there is actually no shortage of food in the country, but that food prices are just too high for most Filipinos. (READ: How can the government lower food prices in the Philippines? )
To eat the right amount and type of food based on criteria set by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute’s Pinggang Pinoy, a family of 5 needs to spend an estimated P439 ($9)* a day or P13,170 ($281) a month. (READ: Is the minimum wage enough for a day’s worth of nutritious meals?)
However, the WFP survey found that a family with an average of 5 members – who can go on for two days without food – spends P120 ($2.5) a day, or P3,600 ($76) a month to buy food.
With the respondents’ average income of P4,000 ($85), they are left with only P400 for other basic necessities – an amount that is obviously not enough.
With insufficient income for food, only 6% of respondents claimed to be having a balanced diet each day.
The insufficient income may be attributed to the bigger job situation. According to the survey results, 43% of the respondents said that the head of the household works as a farmer or is engaged in farming.
The agricultural sector, despite being identified as the biggest food producer, is considered the poorest in the Philippines.
Borrowing to eat
Just to get by without going to sleep on an empty stomach, most of the respondents cope by borrowing.
According to the survey results, 39% of households surveyed buy from retail stores – or sari-sari stores – on a loan basis, while 26% borrow money from relatives just to buy something to eat. Some families, 18% of respondents, address hunger by borrowing food from neighbors.
When they take out a loan, however, it is understood it has to be paid back. This will definitely decrease the monthly income supposed to be spent on food and other necessities.
Other coping mechanisms of households include directly asking money and food from neighbors and relatives, diluting soup or porridge they eat, and reducing food portions.
The WFP survey found that both parents sacrifice to let others get the most out of meager meals. When times are hard, 48% said that the father’s meal is reduced, while 42% said it is the mother who sacrifices.
The food insecurity problem, however, is not only limited to the provinces surveyed as it is evident throughout the country. (READ: Barong-barong: State of poor man’s housing)
The International Food Policy Research’s 2015 Global Hunger Index described the hunger situation in the Philippines as “serious” and ranked it 51st among 117 countries measured.
With several studies exploring and explaining the problem of food and nutrition insecurity in the country, Filipinos are hoping these issues will take center stage, or at the very least, merit some attention during the 2016 elections. – Rappler.com
*$1 = P46
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