NEARLY four million or 19.2 percent of Filipino families experienced hunger in March, with some saying that they came to a point where they did not have anything to eat at all, according to the recent survey of pollster Social Weather Stations (SWS).
The latest tally is three percent higher than figures recorded in December that showed that only 16.3 percent of Filipino families had nothing on their table.
The survey, first published in SWS’ media partner BusinessWorld, was conducted from March 19 to 22, when the unemployment rate was also reported to be high.
The survey noted that an increase in the number of hungry families happened even if there was a drop in self-rated poverty. Self-rated poverty fell two percentage points to 52 percent in March from 54 percent in December.
Hunger was seen to increase in both poor and non-poor families.
Moderate hunger, defined as “having nothing to eat once or a few times in the last three months” increased by three points to 15.6 percent (3.2 million families) from 12.7 percent, the SWS reported.
It added that families who experienced severe hunger or families who said that they were hungry often remain at 3.6 percent or about 726,000.
The SWS used face-to-face interviews of 1,200 adults nationwide in the survey, which has error margins of ±3% for national and ±6% for area percentages.
The SWS noted the increase in overall hunger in all regions except in Metro Manila, where hunger fell by four points to 21.7 percent or about 615,000 families, from 25.3 percent in December.
On the other hand, there was a notable increase in overall hunger rate in Mindanao.
From only 20 percent in December, overall hunger in the region increased by 9.2 percent to 29.2 percent or about 1.4 million families.
Overall hunger also increased in Luzon to 14.7 percent or 1.3 million families, and to 15 percent or 580,000 families in the Visayas region from only 13.3 percent.
The March survey showed that moderate hunger increased in Mindanao from 16 percent to 22.7 percent; 10.7 percent to 13.7 percent in the Visayas; and 9.7 percent to 12 percent in Balance Luzon. However, it fell from 19.3 percent to only 17.3 percent in Metro Manila.
Less severe hunger
The SWS said the recent data in moderate hunger is higher than the 14-year moderate hunger rates recorded in all areas.
Severe hunger fell in all areas except Mindanao, the survey showed. Severe hunger fell a point in Balance Luzon to only 2.7 and more than a point in Metro Manila (4.3 percent) and Visayas (1.3) region but increased by three points in Mindanao region to 6.7 percent.
The survey said severe hunger rates in both Luzon and the Visayas are lower than the 14-year averages. However, it is higher in Metro Manila and Mindanao.
In the recent survey, SWS said overall hunger increased to 25.5 from only 22.7 percent among the self-rated poor people. It also increased by three percentage points from 9 percent to 12.2 percent among the non-poor.
It added that hunger increased greatly among the self-rated poor from 25.8 percent to 33.1 percent and from 8.8 to 10.4 percent to the people who said that they are not too-poor.
Despite this, SWS said that food poverty decreased from 44 percent in December to 39 percent in March.
In Malacañang, officials said they do not take the survey results alone as the sole benchmark used by the government for its poverty-alleviation priorities.
In a press briefing, Palace deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte said the government is committed to addressing hunger but it is not solely relying on surveys as benchmarks for its interventions.
“If you take a look at the results of the survey, quarter-to-quarter, we’ve seen that results tend to be a little volatile; meaning, it goes up, it goes down,” she explained.
“This is partly why we don’t tend to take the survey alone as the sole benchmark for prioritizing several areas for us to concentrate or to at least target these areas,” she added.
Valte said the government will continue to expand its intervention programs such as the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program that benefits 3.9 million families.
The other programs include providing livelihood for the poor, such as those that provide trainings to support those who wish to start small businesses and small or medium enterprises.
“The government has identified several areas to prioritize when it comes to job generation, particularly, agri-business and tourism [sectors],” she pointed out.