• Palace toots horn on hunger decline

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    HUNGER GAMES Street dwellers take their meals on the pavement along a busy road in Manila. Malacañang claimed credit for the improved numbers shown in the latest SWS survey. PHOTO RUY L. MARTINEZ

    HUNGER GAMES Street dwellers take their meals on the pavement along a busy road in Manila. Malacañang claimed credit for the improved numbers shown in the latest SWS survey. PHOTO RUY L. MARTINEZ

    MALACAÑANG on Tuesday attributed the decline in the number of families experiencing “involuntary” hunger in the first quarter of the year to the success of its social welfare program.

    “The welfare of the Filipino people has always been at the front and center of the Aquino administration,” its spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a statement.

    The Palace official made the statement in reaction to the release of a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showing the nation’s hunger rate for the first quarter of the year declining to 13.5 percent (around 3 million families) from 17.2 percent (3.8 million families) recorded in December 2014.

    The 3.7 point decline was the lowest in 10 years, the SWS said.

    The March 2015 survey showed that 11.1 percent or an estimated 2.5 million families experienced moderate hunger while 2.4 percent or 522,000 families endured severe hunger in the last three months.

    The survey was conducted from March 20 to 23 among 1,200 adults nationwide.

    “Moderate Hunger refers to those who experienced hunger only once or a few times in the last three months, while Severe Hunger refers to those who experienced it often or always in the last three months,” the SWS said.

    The 2015 first quarter hunger survey was released just a week after the first quarter self-rated poverty among Filipino families was reported at 51 percent, a point below 2014’s fourth quarter of 52 percent.

    The first three months’ self-rated food poverty also dropped to 36 percent from the previous quarter’s 41 percent.

    Quality of life
    Lacierda said government initiatives, such as the conditional cash transfer program and the expansion of PhilHealth coverage and reforms in basic education, among others, were among the factors that contributed to the decline.

    The numbers and the rhetorics, however, did not impress 72-year-old Elena who hops from one fastfood restaurant to another in Intramuros, Manila, to ask for leftovers from diners.

    Elena, who claims to have been homeless for almost 40 years, told The Manila Times she is lucky if she gets to eat at least once a day.

    Totong, a scrawny 12-year old, was sitting by the entrance of a convenience store along A. Soriano Avenue, also in Intramuros, hoping that office workers and students would take pity on him and spare him some loose change or even a piece of candy.

    When asked if he had eaten for the day, the boy replied, “Hindi pa po [Not yet].”

    Jennifer, 28, a sidewalk vendor, said that despite her meagee resources, she and her family could still have three square meals a day.

    ‘Pagpag’
    The moderate Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), however, said fewer families experienced hunger because pagpag is now readily and widely accessible to poor families especially in Metro Manila.

    Pagpag is Filipino slang for leftover food scavenged from garbage cans and dumps. The word itself literally means to “shake off” and refers to the act of shaking the dirt off of the edible portion of the leftovers.

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