Are we going hungry? Yes, we are but before I give you the numbers, let me tell you a little story.
While in grade school, back in the sleepy town where I grew up, my teachers would give boiled plantains to underweight children to ensure that they are the right weight once they step on the scales. The government recorded these things and weirdly enough, public schools wanted to get what they defined as good results. I didn’t have an understanding as to why the teachers did what they did but it may have had something to do with scores of some kind.
The results probably looked good on paper at the time but what didn’t look good is the reality that we have been seeing every day for decades. I have seen parents in poor urban communities give their children rice water instead of milk. Others gave their kids coffee. This was a depressing thing to see and it didn’t help that the kids were skin and bones.
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc. (PLCPD) says “19.9 percent of Filipino children were recorded to be underweight” in 2015. Poverty plays a significant role in this and is most likely the only reason why many children do not get the nourishment they need. This isn’t surprising at all because poor families in the Philippines only make around P6,000 a month.
Children and adults go hungry for weeks or months at a time and all of them have that undeniable and ever-present pain in their stomachs. Numbers are not needed for that sensation. Many from the middle class have experienced that kind of hunger at one point, too. It’s just that their experiences are not recorded. What is recorded is that 13.5 percent of families in the Philippines experienced hunger in 2015 and that one out of 10 Filipino adults has chronic energy deficiency.
Food Security and Access
Despite the many policies that seek to provide food security in the Philippines, old problems persist and new problems such as climate change add to the burden.
Achieving food security is difficult in this country and like other poor nations, the government and its people have to deal with food production and sustainability problems. Farmers, on the other hand, need to adapt to climate change to ensure that their crops grow.
Although food availability is a huge dilemma on its own, the most pressing food-related problem we have still has something to do with our purchasing power. Many Filipinos cannot afford food. In 2015, statistics from the government showed that 12 million Filipinos live in extreme poverty while 14 million remain poor.
Any thinking member of Congress can come up with a number of solutions. Many have in recent times but we have seen so many of them fail. Even if this is so, the solution still lies in legislation. The most significant policy recommendation is to aim for inclusive growth. However, inclusive growth that is sustainable is elusive. Apart from that, it should also be rapid enough to actually matter.
It’s easy to enumerate solutions but doing something to make a difference is complicated, to say the least. We must create jobs, lots of it. We shouldn’t let the government do this on its own. As one of my professors once said, “I would be happy if each of you could employ at least five people later on.” We must strive harder so we could provide jobs to as many people as possible and we can do it.
We are inside a ship traversing on troubled waters and the only thing we could do is to work together to keep it from sinking.
Editor's note: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the views of IBT Media.
Sigrid Salucop is a policy analyst and a fourth generation winemaker from Ilocos Norte. She built her wine company in 2014. Visit her Facebook page here.