‘Significant progress’ in food security seen in PH – FAO report

Jodesz Gavilan
Despite this progress, the country still faces extreme challenges of malnutrition and hunger

SATING HUNGER. Children wait their turn at a feeding program for informal settlers in Quezon City. File photo by Rolex dela Pena/ EPA

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines has made “significant progress” in improving food production and security, according to a report by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

However, extreme challenges still remain as the country faces problems of malnutrition and hunger.

The 2015 Regional Overview of Food Insecurity in Asia and the Pacific said that approximately 17.5 million Filipinos are still undernourished and 33.6% of children are stunted. Meanwhile, 19% of the whole population live with a daily budget of less than P50 ($1.25).

The country also did not achieve the World Food Summit (WFS) target of halving the number of undernourished people by 2015. The report attributed this to “slow progress.”

Problems in the PH

The Philippines remains to be among the countries that suffer the most problems in Southeast Asia.

The report indicated that side from malnutrition and hunger, it is still among the ASEAN countries that have the highest prevalence of vitamin A deficiency (VAD).

Meanwhile, iodine deficiency remains a problem in the country. The 8th National Nutritional Survey (NNS) found that 8.9% of children aged 6 to 12 years old in 2013 have Iodine Deficiency Disorder (IDD). (READ: 20 years after: ASIN Law and its challenges)

In addition to health-related diseases, the 2015 Global Food Security Index ranks the Philippines as 72nd out of 109 countries when it comes to pushing for food security.

However, it maintained that the government is not “passive” and described the country’s efforts as “moderate performance.”

The FAO report may have also seen this as it commended, among others, the efforts of the Philippines in attaining rice self-sufficiency – a path towards food security – by making it a major national priority and policy platform of the government. (READ: DA cites role of healthy soils in food security)

The Philippine government earmarked P86.1 billion ($1.9 billion) for the Agricultural Development Program in 2015, it added, which will be used to boost rice production and improve irrigation in the top rice-producing provinces such as Northern Luzon.

The program’s credit services, increased investment in research and development, and priority of construction of farm-to-market roads were also highlighted by the regional report.

These strategies, according to the report, are vital to the eradication of hunger-related problems. (READ: Roadmap to ending global hunger)

FAO for development

According to FAO Representative in the Philippines Jose Luis Fernandez, ending hunger is important if the country wants to improve in various aspects.

“For the country to achieve social equity and sustainable development, hunger must be completely eradicated,” he emphasized.

FAO gave assurances it will continue to assist the efforts of the Philippines to help achieve zero hunger through projects such as empowering national and local government agencies in addressing issues related to food and nutrition security, improving agricultural production, and promoting sustainable management of resources.

“FAO remains strongly committed to support the Philippine Government in its fight against hunger and malnutrition and in making economic growth inclusive and beneficial to the vulnerable segments of the population, particularly in the farming communities,” Fernandez said. – Rappler.com

Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.