M. A. P. Insights

What is the score of global hunger in ASEAN?
The Global Hunger Organization just released its 2018 results. The Global Hunger Index (GHI) has four indicators:

• Undernourishment: the share of the population that is undernourished (i.e., whose caloric intake is insufficient);

• Child wasting: the share of children under the age of five who are wasted (i.e., who have low weight for their height, reflecting acute undernutrition);

• Child stunting: the share of children under the age of five who are stunted (i.e., who have low height for their age, reflecting chronic undernutrition); and

• Child mortality: the mortality rate of children under the age of five (in part, a reflection of the fatal mix of inadequate nutrition and unhealthy environments).

“A GHI value of 0 would mean that a country had no undernourished people in the population, no children younger than five who were wasted or stunted, and no children who died before their fifth birthday. A value of 100 would signify that a country’s undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting, and child mortality levels were each at approximately the highest levels observed worldwide in recent decades. (https://www.globalhungerindex.org/).
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This comparison will hopefully alert policymakers and politicians on the extent of hunger in the Philippines. The analysis focuses on ASEAN countries with large populations – Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Myanmar. Peru was added as comparator as it has a great record in hunger reduction.
In the past 18 years, Myanmar led with a massive decline in GHI between 2000 and 2018, followed by Vietnam. Thailand was next. Indonesia and the Philippines had the highest GHI in 2018, followed by Myanmar.
Indonesia and the Philippines had the highest degree of undernourishment. Myanmar and Vietnam recorded a rapid reduction from 2000 to 2018.
The Philippines had the highest index among six countries. Myanmar and Vietnam led in the reduction.
Indonesia, the Philippines and Myanmar had the highest severity. Indonesia, surprisingly, posted an increase in stunting since 2000.
Myanmar had the highest mortality, followed distantly by the Philippines, and Indonesia. Myanmar also posted the largest reduction, followed by Indonesia. Malaysia already posted a low value since 2000.
The Philippines has a long way to go in reducing hunger. A key contributory factor to hunger is poverty. Low income and high food costs generally limit food quantity and quality intake. The Philippines had a far higher incidence of poverty of 21.6% compared to its neighbors: Malaysia (0.4%), Vietnam (7%), Thailand (8.6%) and Indonesia (10.6%). Myanmar posted 32.1% (Asian Development Bank).
First, since two thirds of all poor come from the farm and fishery sectors, Philippine government policies and programs must address income-raising crop productivity and diversification as well as nutrition. Second, stakeholders can learn from Peru’s experience.
Peru has achieved a good record. Between 2000 and 2018, its GHI decreased to 8.8 from 20.9, unmatched by the ASEAN countries. For example, between 2007 and 2014, stunting among children under the age of five fell from 29% to 14%. The government ministries, regional governments, health professionals and NGOs worked together to reduce child stunting caused by chronic undernutrition. The first 1,000 days in a child’s life are crucial. Children need good nutrition if they are going to develop to their full potential.
(This article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines or the MAP.)
Rolando T. Dy is the co-vice chair of the MAP AgriBusiness Committee and the Executive Director of the Center for Food and AgriBusiness of the University of Asia & the Pacific.