The Asia-Pacific region has achieved the Millennium Development Goals’ hunger target of halving the proportion of undernourished people in 2015 but 490 million people in the region still suffer from chronic hunger, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
While the report confirmed that the Asia and Pacific region has made some great strides in food security, achieving the largest reduction in the absolute number of undernourished people (236 million) and almost all countries now having adequate food supplies to meet people’s average dietary needs, the region is sadly still home to almost 62 percent of the world’s undernourished.
Besides the calorie consumption deficit, the problem of undernutrition is also manifested in high rates of stunting in children below five years of age, while various micronutrient deficiencies prevail among people of all ages, the FAO report said. At the same time, the number of people who are overweight or obese is rapidly increasing in the region, especially in Southwest Pacific Island countries and middle-income countries of Asia.
The report said the Philippines also made significant progress in improving food production. The country also won recognition from FAO for achieving the international MDG-1c target. However, challenges still remain in addressing malnutrition caused by short-term inadequacy of food intake, with 33.6 percent of children under five stunted.
FAO said 13.7 million Filipinos are undernourished and approximately 19 percent of the population are living on only $1.25 a day.
“For the country to achieve social equity and sustainable development, hunger must be completely eradicated,” FAO Representative in the Philippines, José Luis Fernandez, said.
“FAO remains strongly committed to support the Philippine government in its fight against hunger and malnutrition and in making economic growth inclusive and beneficial to the vulnerable segments of the population, particularly in the farming communities,” Fernandez added.
The report said the slow progress in many countries in the region was due to the rise of inequality and slow growth in agriculture, which continues to employ the poorest people and affords lower wages than industries or services. Employment and livelihood security is also undermined by threats of natural disasters.
Maintaining or achieving food staples self-sufficiency is a major national priority for the Philippines and in support of this, the Government has earmarked 86.1 billion Philippines pesos (US$1.9 billion) for the Agricultural Development Program in 2015. The funding is being used to boost crop production and provide the essential support services including irrigation, credit, farm-to-market roads and research and development, among others.