Involuntary hunger among Filipino families climbs to 20.9% in July — survey

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Involuntary hunger among Filipino families climbs to 20.9% in July â survey
This photo taken on March 18, 2020 shows a mother washing her laundry outside her home along the river in Manila. Asian nations have imposed increasingly heavy measures to fight the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus, the Philippines has ordered half its population of some 110 million to stay home.
AFP / Maria Tan

MANILA, Philippines — An estimated 5.2 million Filipino families found themselves without food to eat at least once in the past three months, new survey data suggests. 

According to a new survey by the Social Weather Stations, 20.9% of Filipinos experienced involuntary hunger at least once, 15.8% of which were categorized as having experienced moderate hunger, while 5.1% were described as going through severe hunger. 

The survey also showed a trend of rising hunger: for the month of July, hunger was up by 4.2 points from 16.7% in May, and by a total of 12.1 points from 8.8% in December 2019.

"Moderate Hunger rose from 13.9% in May 2020 to 15.8% in July 2020. This is the highest since the 17.6% (est. 3.8 million families) in September 2014. Severe Hunger rose from 2.8% in May 2020 to 5.1% in July 2020. This is the highest since the 5.4% (est. 1.2 million families) in June 2013," the survey report read. 

Hunger was highest in the Visayas (27.2% estimated 1.3 million families) and Mindanao (24.2% or some 1.4 million families) while hunger incidence was "higher among households of non-elementary graduate respondents."

The figure also marks the highest degree of hunger since another SWS mobile phone survey conducted in September 2014 that logged 22% of Filipinos (4.8 million) experiencing involuntary hunger.

The survey, SWS said, interviewed 1,555 adult Filipinos via mobile phone and computer-assisted telephone interviewing and with sampling error margins of ±2% for national percentages, ±6% for Metro Manila, and ±5 for Balance Luzon, ±5% for the Visayas, and ±5% for Mindanao.

Respondents were asked: "Nitong nakaraang tatlong buwan, nangyari po ba kahit minsan na ang inyong pamilya ay nakaranas ng gutom at wala kayong makain?"

(In the last three months, did it happen even once that your family experienced hunger and did not have anything to eat?)

Previous surveys indicate worsening circumstances for Filipinos

Separate SWS surveys found that 77% of Filipinos wear masks when going out and 87% of them were more afraid of catching COVID-19 compared to past viruses—while four out of five left the house at least once and at most thrice in the week.

Respondents of that survey said they did so for essentials, mainly food. 

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Yet, administration officials continue to lean on the narrative that the skyrocketing coronavirus caseload in the country is due to "stubborn" Filipinos whom Interior Undersecretary Martin Diño recommended a "shame campaign" for "out of (his) utter disgust and exasperation over such behavior."

Despite earlier administration claims that the country is winning the war against the coronavirus pandemic, the past surveys conducted by the polling institution—which is typically parroted by the Palace when it presents flattering narratives—have not painted the best picture of the administration's handling of the pandemic. 

One survey found that 83% of Filipinos felt they were worse off compared to a year ago in terms of the quality of their lives, marking what SWS called "the worst trend in survey history." Another found that Filipinos are generally unsure as to whether the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is over or has still yet to come.

As early as March 2020, Malacañang said it was pleased with the “excellent” net satisfaction rating of the Duterte administration by SWS. Later on in June, though, it said that it was "not surprised" by new survey data found that a record-high 43% of Filipinos anticipate that their lives will worsen in the next 12 months. 

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In response to the dire results, Malacañang said the number should be 100% because every Filipino is struggling in the pandemic. Though life has indeed drastically changed for many in the past months, not all have had to go through hunger and employment in the middle of a pandemic. 

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