‘Rising hunger rate should prompt more ayuda’

Louise Maureen Simeon - The Philippine Star
âRising hunger rate should prompt more ayudaâ
This includes P240 billion for P10,000 cash assistance to families, and P100 billion for unemployment subsidies and direct financial assistance.
STAR / Walter Bollozos, file

MANILA, Philippines — The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its toll on vulnerable sectors of society, with hunger and poverty worsening due to lack of available jobs, which should prompt the government to provide substantial cash assistance to Filipinos.

On the occasion of World Food Day on Saturday, research and advocacy group IBON Foundation called on the government to immediately provide ayuda to millions of Filipino families suffering from food insecurity.

In particular, IBON said the Makabayan bloc’s proposed amendments to the 2022 budget for economic stimulus should be considered.

This includes P240 billion for P10,000 cash assistance to families, and P100 billion for unemployment subsidies and direct financial assistance.

Since last year, the pandemic has forced millions to reduce their food consumption due to financial difficulties, worsening the already existing food insecurity and undernourishment in the country.

In fact, the hunger rate reached an all-time high of 21.2 percent as Filipinos failed to have access to available food.

IBON argued that loss of livelihood, and still stubbornly high unemployment rate due to lockdowns, pushed more people into poverty, thus limiting their access to food.

According to the group’s estimates, the poorest 70 percent of families or about 17.3 million lost an average P13,000 to P32,000 over the past 19 months.

“Coupled with soaring food prices, falling incomes and depleted savings mean more Filipinos with less economic access to food and going hungry,” IBON said.

Prior to COVID-19, the Philippines was already experiencing food insecurity with roughly 46 million Filipinos suffering from moderate or severe food insecurity.

“As the country’s hunger and food insecurity becomes grimmer, giving more ayuda is justified and needed to help millions of vulnerable Filipinos cope with and recover from the pandemic,” IBON said.

Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP), the food-assistance branch of the United Nations, warned that the world is facing an exponential increase in hunger fueled by the climate crisis if urgent global action to help communities adapt to climatic shocks and stresses is ignored.

WFP executive director David Beasley said the climate crisis is fueling a food crisis, and the world is not exactly prepared for the unprecedented rise in hunger.

WFP country director Brenda Barton added that high rates of malnutrition, repeated climate shocks and the pandemic have put more people’s food and nutrition security at risk.

Unfortunately, the Philippines ranks fourth among the countries most affected by climate risks over a 20-year period. WFP maintained that nutrition worsens every time natural calamities strike.

“We must urgently act and act collectively, using innovative ways to manage climate risks and to protect vulnerable communities, especially the farming and fishing sectors on whom we rely to produce the very food we eat every day,” Barton said.

The UN organization is working with the government to support needed agriculture interventions, and innovative climate-related initiatives including anticipatory actions to mitigate the severe impact of typhoons and other shocks.

It also provides cash and other assets to farming and fishing communities to provide sustainable livelihoods and improve their resilience to climate shocks.

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