Hunger soars in the Philippines

Number of undernourished Filipinos has grown by two million in two years, even as it drops in neighbouring countries.

    Natural disasters have contributed to food insecurity in the Philippines [Reuters]
    Natural disasters have contributed to food insecurity in the Philippines [Reuters]

    There has been a staggering increase in the number of undernourished Filipinos over the past two years, according to a new study.

    "The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012," a global assessment of nutrition levels released on Tuesday, revealed that a total of 16 million Filipinos were considered undernourished from 2010 to present, even as the number of chronically undernourished people dropped in all other southeast Asian countries.

    There are more underfed people in the Philippines today than there were two decades ago, despite a growing economy. In contrast, other countries in the region saw the number of chronically hungry people plummet: Vietnam by 75.1 per cent, Thailand, by 79.8 per cent, Indonesia by 43.8 per cent, Laos by 9.2 per cent and Cambodia by 37.8 per cent.

    "These hunger statistics and the high joblessness numbers [2.8 million unemployed and 8.5 million underemployed] give a gloomier picture than the upbeat first semester GDP growth of 6.1 per cent. At the very least, they support the view that the first half economic growth was shallow and hollow," the Malaya Business Insight wrote in an editorial pieceon Tuesday.

    The report showed one out of every eight people in the world is chronically undernourished, and that progress to reduce hunger has slowed in recent years.

    Its closely watched global food price index rose 1.4 per cent in September after remaining stable in August, and is close to levels reached during the 2008 food crisis which led to riots in some poor countries.

    'Last ditch effort'

    More than 30 ministers and deputy-ministers joined a meeting in Rome on Tuesday, set up by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), after grain prices shot to record highs this summer - the third price spike in four years - fuelled by drought in the US, Russia and other key producers.

    "Hunger is not a technical issue, it is deeply political and we need to face that reality"

    - Olivier de Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur for the Right to Food

    Aid agency Oxfam said Tuesday's meeting was a "last ditch effort" and urged governments to reverse biofuel mandates, boost food reserves and commit to agricultural investments.

    "The daunting truth is that G20 countries have failed to call a Rapid Response Forum or to calm markets shaken by extreme weather events," Oxfam's Thierry Kesteloot said in a statement.

    UN Special Rapporteur for the Right to Food Olivier de Schutter said that ministers at the meeting had avoided addressing subjects that were key to tackling high food prices and hunger.

    "There are many taboos which have not been discussed such as the diversion of crops to biofuel production. Nobody dares to evoke our consumption in rich countries, our taste for meat and the huge impact that has on markets," he said.

    "Far too little has been said about the question of power in the food system, and the need to empower small farmers and hold governments accountable. Hunger is not a technical issue, it is deeply political and we need to face that reality."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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