Hunger in PH still 'serious'

By Cai U. Ordinario, BusinessMirror

Posted at Oct 12 2011 07:22 AM | Updated as of Oct 12 2011 07:01 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Despite efforts to reduce hunger in the Philippines through cash transfers and other safety net programs, the International Food Policy Research Institute (Ifpri) said the country remains among those that experience “serious” hunger.

In the 2011 Global Hunger Index (GHI) report, titled “The Challenge of Hunger: Taming Price Spikes and Excessive Food Price Volatility,” the Ifpri explained that while the Philippines was able to reduce its hunger incidence, it is still high compared with other emerging countries in the world at around 10 percent to 19.9 percent.

Data from the GHI showed that the country’s index score improved from 19.9 in 1990; 17.5 in 1996; 14.1 in 2001; all the way down to 11.5 in 2010. This mirrored the overall trend in the GHI, which saw global hunger declining but not at a dramatic pace.

“This year’s Global Hunger Index [GHI] shows that global hunger has declined since 1990, but not dramatically, and remains at a level characterized as ‘serious,’” the Ifpri said. “Growing demand for biofuels, extreme weather and climate change, and increased financial activity through commodity futures markets are the main causes of high and volatile food prices.”

Volatile food prices, the Ifpri said, is the main reason hunger persists and has increased in some countries worldwide.

The countries with extremely alarming 2011 GHI scores were Burundi, Chad, the Congo and Eritrea, all in sub-Saharan Africa.

Among the six countries in which the hunger situation worsened, the Ifpri said the Congo stood out. Its GHI score rose by about 63 percent owing to conflict and political instability.

The highest GHI scores occur in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

South Asia reduced its GHI score substantially between 1990 and 1996, but this fast progress could not be maintained. Though sub-Saharan Africa made less progress than South Asia after 1990, it has caught up since the turn of the millennium.

“In recent years world food markets have been characterized by rising and more volatile prices. This situation has serious implications for poor and hungry people, who have little capacity to adjust to price spikes and rapid shifts,” the Ifpri said. “It can also affect poor people’s nutrition by causing them to shift to cheaper, lower-quality and less micronutrient-dense foods.”

The GHI is designed to measure and track hunger globally and by country and region. It highlights successes and failures in hunger reduction and provides insights into the drivers of hunger.

The index combines three equally weighted indicators in one index number. These are undernourishment which is the percentage of the population that is undernourished; child underweight, proportion of children below 5 years old who are underweight; and child mortality, the mortality rate of children under 5 years old.