MEDIA STATEMENT: Why do people go hungry in the midst of plenty?

August 28, 2015

Despite steady economic growth in the past few years and progress in fighting hunger and malnutrition, millions of Filipinos remain poor and food insecure.

In 2014, the Philippine economy grew by 6.1 percent but poverty incidence increased to 25.8 percent in the first semester. In the second quarter of 2015, the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 5.6 percent, however, 12.7 percent of Filipino families went hungry, according to the Social Weather Stations. While this figure is the lowest recorded since 2005 and exceeds our Millennium Development Goal (MDG) to halve the proportion of people suffering from hunger, the country still falls short of the World Food Summit target of reducing the number of hungry people by 2015.

The persistent problem in hunger and malnutrition is exacerbated by our vulnerability to disasters and climate change. The Philippines was ranked second out of 171 countries in the 2014 World Risk Index and second out of 181 countries in the 2014 Global Climate Risk Index. Sporadic conflict in Mindanao causing disruption in food production and supply also aggravates the hunger situation in the region. The region had the highest stunting prevalence among children aged 0-5 years at 39% in 2013, according to the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI).

Indeed, the challenge to cascade the benefits of economic development to the great majority of the people remains huge. Recent economic growth has not translated to improved conditions on the ground. As the wealth of a few grows, the stomach of the many continues to growl.

The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development thus calls on the government to step up its efforts in eradicating hunger and malnutrition. It should enhance coordination among relevant agencies, and ensure the proper implementation of existing policies and programs to address food insecurity.

We urge Congress to expedite deliberations and prioritize the enactment of pending proposals that seek to: reform the bureaucracy in the food security sector, mitigate vulnerabilities and address threats to food security such as climate change and armed conflict, and close the widening inequality that compromises people’s access to food.

Investing in food security and proper nutrition does not only benefit individuals and their families but also shapes the future of the country.
Adequate food is essential to people’s total intellectual and physical development – increasing our productivity, improving our performance, and, in the larger social context, building a stronger nation.
Economic development should not leave behind any one. Inclusive growth means that every household has adequate food on the table. Food and nutrition security hold the key to a brighter tomorrow. It is our duty to make it a reality today.