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By Ian Nicolas C. Cigaral

Hunger steadies in 2016
though lowest since 2004

Posted on January 24, 2017

THE PROPORTION of those who went hungry at least once in the last three months steadied from the preceding quarter and the past year, according to results of a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey that one analyst said bared “the gravity of the problem.”

The Fourth Quarter 2016 Social Weather Survey -- conducted Dec. 3-6 via face-to-face interviews with 1,500 adults nationwide with sampling error margins of ±3 points for quarterly national percentages; ±4% for Balance Luzon, ±6% each for Metro Manila, the Visayas and Mindanao; and ±1.5 points for annual averages -- showed that 13.9% or an estimated 3.1 million families experienced involuntary hunger at least once in 2016’s final quarter, 3.3 points above the 10.6% (estimated 2.4 million families) logged in the September poll and 2.2 points more than December 2015’s 11.7% (or 2.6 million families).

Last year saw average hunger at 13.3% -- broadly steady from 2015’s 13.4% -- though still the lowest since the 11.8% recorded in 2004.

“The measure of hunger refers to involuntary suffering because the respondents answer a survey question that specifies hunger due to lack of food to eat,” the survey noted in its report.

December’s 13.9% total hunger rate is the sum of 10.9% (an estimated 2.5 million families) who experienced “moderate hunger” and 3.0% (an estimated 673,000 families) who experienced “severe hunger.” “‘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 explained in its report.

The same survey also showed both “moderate” and “severe” hunger rates broadly steady from the third quarter and a year ago.

The quarterly hunger situation steadied across geographic areas, rising 5.7 points to 13.0% (estimated 399,000 families) in Metro Manila in December from 7.3% (est. 225,000 families) in September, bringing the 2016 average in the nation’s capital to 12.8%, 3.8 points below the 2015’s 16.6%.

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Hunger rose by 3.3 points in “Balance Luzon” to 15.0% (estimated 1.5 million families) from 11.7% (estimated 1.2 million families), leading to a 2016 full-year 13.6%, 1.2 points more than 12.4% in 2015.

In the Visayas, hunger climbed by 3.7 points to 16.7% (estimated 724,000 families) from 13.0% (estimated 565,000 families), taking the full-year average to 13.9%, 3.1 points higher than 2015’s 10.8% average.

In Mindanao, hunger went up 1.7 points to 10.0% (estimated 515,000 families) from 8.3% (est. 429,000 families), leading to a 12.7% 2016 average that was 3.1 points below 2015’s 15.8% -- the lowest annual Mindanao hunger rate since 2003’s 6.6%.

Sought for comment, Presidential Communications Secretary Martin M. Andanar said in a mobile phone message that Malacañang “takes note” of the survey results and attributed steady hunger rates “to the rise in consumer prices” at that quarter that bore central bank expectations of a pickup: 2.3% in October, 2.5% in November and 2.6% in December.

“Weather disturbances, plus seasonal demand due to the Christmas holidays contributed to the uptick in food inflation which resulted in the aforementioned public sentiment.”

Also sought for comment, Social Welfare and Development Secretary Judy M. Taguiwalo said in a text message: “We take survey results such as these as reminders that government needs to work doubly hard to implement socioeconomic reforms that will have immediate and even long-term benefits for Filipinos.”

For his part, Ramon C. Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms, said via text when sought for comment that the survey results “speaks of the gravity of the problem.”