THE National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said a renewed focus is needed on improving human capital development and ensuring food security during the global health crisis.

In his speech at the 54th Session of the United Nations (UN) Commission on Population and Development (CPD) last week, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua said population planning and ensuring food security are crucial in boosting economic growth and improving health and welfare.

“Our goal is to give every Filipino access to quality healthcare, nutrition services, and family planning,” Mr. Chua said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the challenges we are facing in securing food, nutrition, and good health for all Filipinos. Overcoming this unprecedented crisis requires stronger collaboration. Let us continue to work hard together to ensure that our common goal of human capital development is fully realized,” he added.

The CPD is composed of 47 member states elected by the UN Economic and Social Council to four-year terms.

The commission is currently focusing on population, food security, nutrition and sustainable development this year. It was established to monitor and assess the implementation of the Program of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development.

Mr. Chua committed the Philippine government to “protecting and advancing the gains” of the program.

He cited as part of the government’s efforts the Rice Tariffication Law, which liberalized rice imports and established a fund to support mechanization.

He said the government also institutionalized a national feeding program in public day care, kindergarten, and elementary schools to help eradicate malnutrition.

He said 28.8% of children below five years old or an estimated 3.2 million were stunted; 19% or 2.1 million were underweight; and 5.8% or 600,000 were underweight for their height.

The government also formed an inter-agency task force on zero hunger and is actively promoting sustainable food consumption and production, he added.

In March, the government sought a P9.7-billion loan from the World Bank to fund a program to address malnutrition.

The Philippines was 69th out of the 107 countries in the 2020 Global Hunger Index compiled by the Global Hunger Organization.

It said the Philippines’ level of hunger is considered “moderate” with a score of 19 on a scale in which a country that scores less than 10 is considered to have low hunger levels. — Beatrice M. Laforga