The number of Filipinos who were hungry grew as many places in the country continue to be under lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A survey done by pollster Social Weather Stations (SWS) noted that 16.7 percent of the respondents or 3.9 million families experienced involuntary hunger in the past three months.
It is a big increase compared to the 8.8 percent involuntary hunger rates recorded in December last year.
It is also the highest hunger rate registered under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte and the highest since a 22.0 percent in September 2014.
The survey results show that the hunger rate rose in all localities, but the sharpest increase was recorded in Metro Manila.
For the past three months, hunger rates in Metro Manila were at an alarming 20.8 percent, from just 9.3 percent in December 2019.
This means that one of five Metro Manila residents or an estimated 693,000 families experienced involuntary hunger from February to April.
The survey was conducted through mobile phones and computer-assisted telephone interviewing of 4,010 working-age Filipinos from May 4-10, as the lockdown measures made it difficult to conduct face-to-face interviews.
Government as source of food
When respondents were asked whether their families have received any form of assistance, like food packs since the start of the pandemic, 99 percent said they received some food to cope with the crisis.
The survey noted that the government is “the most common source of food-help” at 99 percent, followed by relatives at 22 percent, private groups or institutions like churches and non-government organizations at 16 percent, friends at 10 percent, and private individuals at 8 percent.
The survey also showed that the poor are more vulnerable to lockdown measures, as hunger was higher among people with fewer years of formal education: 21.1 percent among non-elementary graduates, 24.4 percent in elementary graduates.
In comparison, only 16.5 percent of high school graduates and 6.9 percent of college graduates experienced hunger in the last three months.
The government has implemented a social amelioration program to aid families affected by the lockdown, but several households have complained that they have yet to receive the cash aid.
Online apps to fight hunger
The government announced on May 24 that it will tap more information and communications technologies in fighting hunger in the coming days.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, who leads the government’s Zero Hunger Task Force, said the government had already used ICT tools successfully and plans to use others, like the Supply Chain Analytics app, to trace and address hunger.
The Supply Chain Analytics app was launched on May 21 and aims in troubleshooting problems in the supply chain for goods and production inputs and in planning supply chain-related interventions during the pandemic.
Nograles called on the public to participate in the initiative by downloading and using the app to report incidents that hamper the flow of goods and production inputs.
The Agrarian department has also announced earlier that it will partner with the Social Welfare department to implement a supplementary feeding program for children during the lockdown.
The program will provide food, in addition to regular meals, to children three to four years old enrolled in Child Development Centers and those in Supervised Neighborhood Play.