PHILIPPINES — The Philippines faces serious hunger and poverty. Conflicts between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Filipino government in addition to the frequent natural disasters have only intensified the existing food insecurity. These top 10 facts about hunger in the Philippines will shed some light on areas that need improvement as well as areas where the country has been successful.
Top 10 Facts About Hunger in the Philippines
The Philippines’ Global Hunger Index (GHI) is currently 20.3, ranking the country 69 out 119 and placing it under the “Serious” category in the Global Hunger Index. Although, this number is down from the 25.9 rating that the Philipines had back in 2000.
Hunger poses dangerous health consequences for the Philippines, with 20.6 percent of people being underweight and 32.2 percent being stunted. Low weight and stunting can restrict growth and prevent people from developing fully.
Children also face serious risks from malnourishment. Although the rate of underweight children has decreased from 29.1 percent in 1992 to 20.2 percent in 2003, that rate has remained mostly unchanged since. In fact, the percentage recorded in 2015 was 21.5 percent of children being underweight. In addition, 29.9 percent of children aged five to 10 were stunted in that same year, ranking the Philippines ninth in the world for stunted children.
Hunger occurs the most in the agriculture and fishing sectors where 70 percent of workers are poor. In fact, 33 percent of the working population resides in these sectors, facing low wages, risks of natural disasters and poverty, all contributing to their high rates of hunger. Typhoon Bohpa alone created a loss of $663 million in agriculture. This effect is amplified for coconut farmers, who must cultivate their plants for eight to ten years before selling.
Food insecurity varies by region. Although around 21.9 percent of households overall are food insecure, 44.5 percent of The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is food insecure. It is also the regions with the highest tendency for underweight children. Urban regions in the ARMM are more likely to be food secure, with a 40.1 percent food security rate compared to a 28 percent food security rate in rural regions.
ARMM’s high food insecurity may be attributed to the history of conflict in the region. For years, various reformist groups in the area had fought for the independence of the Muslim provinces well into the late 1990s. Even after gaining autonomy, however, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front continued to fight for independence. These conflicts have displaced more than 500,000 people.
The Philippines is prone to natural disasters including earthquakes, floods and tsunamis. Since 1990, natural disasters have taken the lives of 70,000 people and put 60 percent of the land, which houses 74 percent of the people, at risk. The resulting damage in agriculture and displacement has exacerbated hunger and poverty in the Philippines.
This improvement may be attributed to the two-part Accelerated Hunger Mitigation Program. The Food for School Program provides one kilo of rice daily for families with school-aged children in grade one or below. The second part of the program is Tindahan Natin, which offers basic food and necessities at reduced prices for low-income families.
The World Food Programme is also working towards reducing hunger in the Philippines. They are focusing on peacemaking between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Filipino government in order to relieve the high poverty and hunger rates of the affected areas.
Based on these top 10 facts about hunger in the Philippines, it is evident that progress is being made, albeit slowly. Still, more efforts and humanitarian aid are needed to help the Philippines decrease food insecurity in order to end hunger and poverty in the country.