MANILA, Philippines - The United Nations has reported that an estimated six million Filipino children are malnourished, 60,000 of them are vulnerable to sexual exploitation, while at least 66 percent under the age of six do not have childcare.
After the onslaught of typhoon “Sendong” last year, the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) expressed concern over the rising malnutrition cases in calamity-devastated communities.
Abdul Alim, Unicef country representative, said malnutrition has long been an issue among children in Mindanao and the typhoon worsened the situation.
“Malnutrition is an especially serious concern for Mindanao, where a significant number of children are already undernourished. Sendong dealt an additional blow to these children’s health. That is why we need to keep a close eye on the situation of these vulnerable young children,” Alim said.
The UN report titled “The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012” also said that almost 870 million people in the world, or one in eight, are suffering from chronic malnutrition.
It said the vast majority of the hungry – 852 million – live in developing countries in Asia and Africa.
While the number of malnourished people declined by almost 30 percent in Asia and the Pacific over the past two decades, Africa experienced an increase from 175 million to 239 million during the same period.
The report strongly indicated that the world is still short of achieving its Millennium Development Goals (MDG) in terms of food and nutrition. It categorically expressed dismay that the MDG targets would not be achieved.
“In today’s world of unprecedented technical and economic opportunities, we find it entirely unacceptable that more than 100 million children under five are underweight, and therefore unable to realize their full human and socio-economic potential, and that childhood malnutrition is a cause of death for more than 2.5 million children every year,” the report said in its foreword, co-written by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) director general Jose Graziano da Silva, International Fund for Agricultural Development president Kanayo Nwanze and World Food Program executive director Ertharin Cousin.
“If the average annual hunger reduction in the past 20 years continues through to 2015, the percentage of undernourishment in the developing countries would reach 12.5 percent – still above the MDG target of 11.6 percent,” the UN report said.
Between the periods of 1990-1992 and 2010-2012, the number of hungry people declined by 132 million, from 18.6 percent to 12.5 percent of the world’s population.
However, since 2007, global progress in reducing hunger has slowed down and leveled off, requiring countries to take appropriate measures if they are to meet the MDG of reducing by half the number of people suffering from hunger by 2015.
The report suggested adopting a twin-track approach based on support for economic growth, including agriculture growth involving smallholders, and safety nets for the most vulnerable. It said higher priority must be given to getting quality nutrition to prevent malnutrition from co-existing with obesity and non-communicable diseases.
Meanwhile, officials of a non-government organization said the lack of a comprehensive national food policy is one of the major reasons why the country has high incidence of hunger.
FoodFirst Information and Action Network (FIAN) Philippines president Aurea Miclat-Teves said there is an urgent need to craft policies, and for the full and active participation of all concerned, including those most vulnerable to hunger.
“The result of the latest survey on hunger incidence is unacceptable and alarming. We urge the President to declare as urgent the crafting of a national food policy that will rectify incoherent, non-complementary and conflicting legal mechanisms,” said Miclat-Teves.
Last week, the Social Weather Stations (SWS) released its third quarter findings that showed 21 percent or at least 4.3 million households experienced having nothing to eat in the last three months, up from 18.4 percent in May. This was due to an 18 percent increase in moderate hunger – defined as experiencing having nothing to eat only once or a few times.