Hunger stalks 7.6M families

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    SURVEYS as indicator of socio-political sentiment in a given time frame have not been very convincing or reliable, mainly because of the propensity of various interests to manipulate the poll takers. Sometimes, owners of the survey firms themselves allow their institutions to be used by certain political forces, especially during national and local elections.

    A poll on the incidence of hunger in the Philippines at this time, however, is bound to be generally taken as credible, since the elections are still far off, and the contraction of the economy along with loss of jobs and closure of businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic are real.

    According to a survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) conducted among 1,249 respondents from September 17 to 20, more than 7 million Filipino households have experienced involuntary hunger at least once in the past three months.

    In plain language, involuntary hunger is hunger due to lack of food to eat, and this category logged a new record-high of 30.7 percent, or an estimated 7.6 million households. SWS said this surpassed the previous peak of 23.8 percent in March, 2012.

    ‘If it is of any relevance, the survey shows that Filipinos would rather buy mobile phones and CP loads rather than rice and dried fish.’

    The firm added that since May, the hunger trend has been rising, upsetting a previous favorable trend when hunger steadily declined from 23.8 percent in March 2012 to 9.3 percent in December 2019.

    Hunger in September 2020 was up by 9.8 points from 20.9 percent in July 2020, by 14 points from 16.7 percent in May 2020, and by a total of 21.9 points from 8.8 percent in December 2019.

    This month’s 30.7 percent hunger rate is the sum of 22 percent or an estimated 5.5 million families who experienced moderate hunger and 8.7 percent or an estimated 2.2 million families who experienced severe hunger. Moderate hunger refers to those who experienced hunger “Only Once” or “A Few Times” in the last three months. Meanwhile, severe hunger refers to those who experienced it “Often” or “Always” in the last three months.

    New record-highs were seen in the Visayas, Mindanao, and Metro Manila which attributed to the 9.8-point rise in the nationwide hunger rate from July 2020 to September 2020.

    Overall, hunger rose in the Visayas, up from July’s 1.3 million families to September’s 1.9 million families. It also rose in Mindanao, from 1.4 million to 2.1 million families during the same period.

    Hunger rose in Metro Manila, up from 16.3 percent or an estimated 546,000 families in July to a new record-high 28.2 percent or an estimated 941,000 families in September 2020.

    These data were gathered through cellphone interviews of adult Filipinos (18 years old and above), randomly drawn from a database of mobile phone numbers the SWS has accumulated since 2017.

    If it is of any relevance, the survey shows that Filipinos would rather buy mobile phones and CP loads rather than rice and dried fish. Quite an interesting find.

    Levity aside, the Duterte administration should do something quickly to avoid the further deterioration of the hunger situation.