THE NUMBER of Filipino families experiencing “involuntary hunger” declined in March 2019 from late last year as measured by the Social Weather Survey, according to a report issued by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) polling organization Wednesday.

In its First Quarter Social Weather Survey, SWS reported a hunger incidence of 9.5%, which extrapolates to an estimated 2.3 million families. Survey participants were asked if they had experienced involuntary hunger in the past three months.

At the end of 2018, the equivalent rate of hunger incidence was 10.5%.

SWS added that the 9.5% finding for March 2019 “also marks the second consecutive quarter where there has been a decrease in hunger from the one prior.”

The non-commissioned survey involved 1,440 participants nationwide and was conducted between March 28 and 31.

The 9.5% Hunger reported during the first quarter of 2019 combines the total of 8.1% (estimated 2 million families) who experienced “moderate hunger” and the 1.3% (estimated 327,000 families) who experienced “severe hunger.”

The “moderate hunger” category takes in those who experienced hunger once or a few times within the past three months while the criteria for “severe hunger” includes those who experienced hunger often or always.

Hunger incidence fell in Metro Manila and Mindanao while it rose slightly in Balance Luzon (Luzon excluding Metro Manila) and the Visayas. Metro Manila accounted for 11.7% of hunger incidence nationwide while the equivalent numbers for Balance Luzon was 10.3%; the Visayas 10%; and Mindanao 6.1%.

For Metro Manila, “(Q)uarterly Hunger dropped by 6.6 points, from 18.3% in December (equivalent to 581,000 families) to 11.7% in March. This is the first time (after) four consecutive quarters where there has been a decrease in hunger incidence in Metro Manila, having risen by a total of 12.3 points through the four quarters of 2018.”

Hunger incidence in Mindanao fell by 2.2 points from 8.3% in December.

On the other hand, quarterly hunger increased in March 2019 for Balance Luzon by 0.6 points from 9.7% in December. Hunger incidence in the Visayas rose 0.8 points quarter-on-quarter from 9.2% in December.

Commenting on the findings, the President’s spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said Malacañang “is pleased to note that Filipino families who said they had experienced hunger dropped to a single-digit 9.5% in the first quarter of 2019.”

“These figures indicate that the President’s sincere efforts in addressing soaring prices and running a bureaucracy that efficiently delivers basic services to the poor and marginalized are beginning to bear fruit and are now being felt by our countrymen,” he told reporters Thursday. — Gillian M. Cortez