MANILA — Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday pushed for a P1.36-billion increase in the Department of Social Welfare and Development's (DSWD) proposed 2021 budget to aid government's response to a looming “hunger crisis” in the country.
Hontiveros explained that the higher funding would help feed at least 1.94 million children in the Philippines aged 3 to 5 who are mostly undernourished and impoverished.
“If we want to prevent an epidemic of malnutrition and stunted growth among young children, we have to empower the DSWD and provide the necessary budgetary increases for our nationwide feeding programs,” Hontiveros said.
“Hindi tayo dapat maging kuripot sa kalusugan ng ating kabataan, dahil kinabukasan ng bansa ang nakataya dito," she added.
(We can't be stingy when it comes to nutrition of our youth because the future of our country is at stake here.)
The P1.36 billion increase sought by the DSWD will be allocated to the government’s supplemental feeding program next year, a necessary support system for the neediest children, she said.
According to the senator, citing a United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) report in August, a third of Filipino children have stunted growth, putting the Philippines among the top 10 countries worldwide with the highest number of stunted children.
“With the difficult economic situation now, the number of Filipino children who are hungry, malnourished and suffering from stunted physical growth will rise dramatically if government fails to act soon,” she said.
Her appeal also came after a Social Weather Stations report showed that about 7.6 million Filipino households have experienced “involuntary hunger” in the past three months - the highest hunger incidence recorded in the country since 2014.
“Sa mga darating na buwan, hindi lang COVID-19 ang matinding banta sa kalusugan ng kabataang Pinoy ngayon. Kailangan din natin agarang aksyunan ang malawakang pagkagutom na direktang nakakaapekto sa milyon-milyong tahanan sa buong bansa,” Hontiveros said.
(In the coming months, it's not only COVID-19 that's threatening the health of Filipino youth. We also need to immediately act on widespread hunger that has directly affected millions of households in the country.)
Hontiveros also noted that the present version of the DSWD budget pending before lawmakers does not include the additional P1.36 billion for the supplemental feeding program, which led her to call on fellow lawmakers “to help correct this situation" and ensure that the government's feeding program will get the funding it needs.
She lamented that the DSWD's budget for the supplemental feeding program next year did not increase and was instead retained at the current year's P3.7 billion.
— report from Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News