The 39th Nutrition Month celebration focuses on hunger with the theme “Gutom at malnutrisyon, sama-sama nating wakasan!” (Hunger and malnutrition, let us end it together!). The theme underscores the need for active multi-stakeholder participation to address the basic causes of hunger.
The objectives of this year’s celebration are to:
- increase awareness on hunger issues and actions to mitigate hunger and malnutrition;
- encourage stakeholders to contribute to addressing hunger issues; and
- advocate for stronger political action to end hunger.
What is hunger?
Hunger is a condition in which people do not get enough food to provide the nutrients for fully productive, active and healthy lives.
What causes hunger?
- Poverty – Poor people do not have the resources like land, tools or money which are needed to grow or buy food on a daily basis.
- Armed conflict – War or peace and order problems affect agricultural production as well as food distribution, access and prices. Likewise, governments often spend more on arms than on social programs.
- Natural disasters – typhoons, floods, drought and other calamities can lead to severe food insecurity among those who are affected
- Environmental degradation –increasing environmental abuse decreases agricultural and fishery output
- Rapid population growth – particularly in urban areas make it harder for poor people to feed themselves.
- Lack of agricultural infrastructure – Lack of farm-to-market roads, post-harvest and irrigation facilities, and modern technology all affect food availability and access.
- Food prices – increasing food prices directly affect the people’s capacity to buy food.
What are the consequences of hunger?
People who suffer from hunger for longer periods are undernourished. Hunger for a long period of time can lead to:
- High Infant Mortality Rates – Malnourished women are more likely to be sick, give birth to smaller babies or with low birthweight who are at-risk of dying early, resulting in high levels of infant mortality where chronic hunger is a problem.
- Poor health status -– Chronically hungry children and adults become weak and unable to fight common diseases due to weakened immune system. Undernutrition among the elderly speeds up the onset of degenerative diseases.
- Impaired physical and mental development – Chronic hunger deprives children of the essential proteins, micronutrients and fatty acids they need to grow adequately. Hungry children are also less sociable and less likely to explore and learn from their surroundings which affect their ability to learn at an early age.
- Acute vulnerability in times of disaster – poor families are already living on the edge of survival. Disasters such as floods, earthquakes, drought and typhoons can easily affect the families and in extreme cases, death to some of the family members.
- Hindrance to economic growth – Children who are experiencing chronic hunger could suffer permanent physical and cognitive damage. This will affect their future health, welfare and economic well-being. For developing countries, the impact on their ability to raise a productive workforce can last for generations, while in the shorter term, rising food prices can worsen inequality and may lead to conflict and political instability.
Why focus on hunger?
The NNC Technical Committee approved the focus of this year’s NM to focus on hunger because:
First, hunger is one of the worst forms of deprivation particularly because people do not enjoy their basic fundamental right – the right to food.
Second, the need to fast track actions to reduce hunger to meet the Millennium Development Goals’ first goal — eradicating extreme poverty and hunger.
Third, hunger incidence in the Philippines has worsened in recent years affecting more Filipino families.
And fourth, addressing hunger contributes to national growth and development.
What is the state of hunger in the Philippines?
Hunger in the country is measured using different parameters. While different measures are used, these are consistent in that the hunger problem in the Philippines has worsened in the last few years.
a. Food threshold or food poverty
The official indicator for measuring hunger incidence is the subsistence incidence or food poverty generated from the results of the Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) which is done by the National Statistics Office every three years. The most recent FIES in 2012 revealed that food poverty or subsistence incidence was estimated at 10.0 percent in the first semester of 2012. The figure has not significantly changed from the first half of 2009 at 10.0 percent and 10.8 percent in the first half of 2006.
Food poverty which is also the food threshold is the minimum income required by an individual to meet his/her basic food needs and satisfy the nutritional requirements set by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI). During the first semester of 2012, a Filipino family of five needed Php 5,458 to meet basic food needs every month. Food poverty is also described as extreme poverty.
b. Food insecurity
The 2008 National Nutrition Surveys showed that 28.6% of mothers/caregivers experienced food insecurity. Among households, 72.7% were considered food insecure because they suffered anxiety that food may run out before they can get money to buy more and/or food bought did not last and they did not have enough money to get more at least once during the past three months before the interview.
The survey also identified the coping mechanisms to food insecurity:
- Skipping meals
- Borrowing money and food from relatives, friends and neighbors
- Buying food on credit
- Adults eating less frequently
- Reducing portion sizes
- Shifting to less expensive foods like root crops, corn, banana
- Skipping school
- Working abroad.
What can families and individuals do to help reduce hunger and malnutrition?
- Breastfeed babies exclusively from birth up to six months then give appropriate complementary food while continuing breastfeeding up to 2 years and beyond. Breastfeeding is a family’s best anti-poverty and anti-hunger strategy.
- Establish home, community and school vegetable gardens, raise poultry, small animals or fish both for home consumption and for selling to augment household income. Consume indigenous vegetables.
- Support local farmers by buying locally-grown foods.
- Cook and eat just enough food to avoid food wastage.
- Support feeding programs in the community particularly for pregnant women and the provision of complementary foods to children 6-23 months old.
- Be informed. Know, practice and spread good nutrition.
What government policies and programs are in place to address hunger and malnutrition?
Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition. The country’s framework for nutrition improvement. It aims to reduce hunger and malnutrition through the implementation of priority actions:
>Promote desirable infant and young child feeding
>Micronutrient program (food fortification and micronutrient supplementation)
>Home, school and community food production
>Integrated Management of Severe and Acute Malnutrition
>Supplementary feeding for pregnant women and 6-23 months old children
>Sanitary toilet facilities
>Safe drinking water supply
>Promotion of desirable nutrition and healthy lifestyle behaviors
>Nutrition in Disaster and Risk Reduction Management
>Nutrition-Sensitive Agriculture and Development Programs
Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program (4Ps)
4Ps is a human development program of the national government investing on health and education among poor households, particularly of children 0-14 years old. It provides cash assistance to poor families to alleviate their immediate needs such as food, health and education and also aims to break the intergenerational poverty cycle through investments in human capital.
Agrikulturang Pilipino or Agri-Pinoy
Agri-Pinoy is the overall strategic framework of the Department of Agriculture that guides the various services and programs of the DA from 2011-2016 and beyond. Agri-Pinoy has 4 guiding principles, namely: food security and self-sufficiency, sustainable agriculture and fisheries, natural resource management, and local development. The principle of food security and self-sufficiency seeks to meet the food needs of the Philippines, particularly staple food, and make these accessible, affordable, safe and nutritious.
What are the ways to celebrate Nutrition Month 2013?
- Spread the message. Display Nutrition Month streamers in façade of offices and other strategic places.
- Be informed. Conduct and attend seminar or similar activities on hunger and malnutrition.
- Be concerned. Conduct feeding programs for poor families particularly pregnant women and 6-23 months old children.
- Provide livelihood opportunities for poor families including livelihood trainings and seminars.
- Plant now. Establish home and community vegetable gardens for increased food supply.
- Provide for the future. Sponsor nutrition projects and activities by the local government units
- Be a supporter for sustainability. Donate to organizations conducting hunger programs and other humanitarian assistance such as Pondo ng Pinoy, UN World Food Programme, UNICEF etc.
See: Philippines Celebrates 39th Nutrition Month!
National Nutrition Council / Nutrition Month 2013 Talking Points