Human Face

How fares PH in hunger department?

Soon the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that nations the world over have been trying to meet since 2000 will be transitioning to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Politicians, civil servants, etc. seem so preoccupied with doing somersaults to gain mileage in the May 2016 elections that we don’t hear talk about the MDGs, the monitoring period of which ends this year.


In 2000, or 15 years ago, 189 nations heeded the call of the United Nations Development Programme and pledged to work to free their people from extreme poverty and multiple deprivations. This pledge took the form of the MDGs, battle cries that rang out at the dawning of the third millennium. This year is the penultimate year when nations are supposed to take stock of the MDGs and how well these have been met. How are we, where are we?

We call to mind the eight goals: eradicate extreme hunger and poverty; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and develop a global partnership for development.


This week the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced the great strides made by countries worldwide that resulted in “the near achievement of the MDG target to halve the proportion of hungry people by a 2015 deadline, or bringing it below the 5-percent threshold.” Note that this is only on MDG No. 1, or the “eradication of extreme hunger and poverty.”

The FAO noted that a majority, or 72 of 129 countries monitored (the Philippines among them), “have achieved the MDG target, with developing regions as a whole missing it by a small margin. Out of the total 72 countries, 29 have also met the more stringent goal to halve the number of hungry people as laid out by governments when they met in Rome at the World Food Summit (WFS) in 1996. And another 12 of the total 72 countries have maintained their hunger rates below 5 percent dating back to at least 1990.”

FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said that since 1990, 216 million people have been freed from hunger. But not to rest easy. One of nine people on the planet still does not have enough food to conduct an active, healthy and productive life.

To find out how the Philippines fared in the hunger department, I pored over the UN “State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015” (Sofi 2015) released last month.

In the report was the general observation that improving the productivity of small-scale family farmers (including women and young people) and strong political commitment, respect for basic human rights and development assistance were among the key factors for inclusive growth. The negative factors—conflict, political instability and natural disasters caused by climate change—resulted in food insecurity.

So how did the Philippines figure in Sofi 2015, specifically in the so-called “MDG hunger target” or MDG No. 1c, which requires halving, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffered from hunger? The progress or no-progress was measured by two indicators: the prevalence of undernourishment (PoU) as monitored by the FAO, and the prevalence of underweight children below five years of age (CU5) as measured by the Unicef and the World Health Organization.

Sofi 2015 reveals regional patterns that show Southeast Asia as among the regions with faster progress across the first seven MDGs. The same is true for the hunger target as measured by both the PoU and CU5. Sofi 2015 is one report where charts that show descending lines mean things are looking up.


I was most interested in South-Eastern Asia, where the Philippines belongs.

The table for “countries that have achieved, or are close to reaching, the international hunger targets” show the Philippines to be among the 31 countries listed under “MDG 1c achieved.” Alas, it is not listed under “WFS MDC 1c achieved,” where South-Eastern Asian nations Myanmar (Burma), Thailand and Vietnam are listed and which means they did better. The WFS had more ambitious goals. Indonesia is already listed under “close to reaching WFS goal,” which means it is way ahead.

The good news is that the most successful regions in fighting hunger have been Eastern and South-Eastern Asia: “In South-Eastern Asia, the number of undernourished people has continued its steady decline, from 137.5 million in 1990-92 to 60.5 million by 2014-16, a 56-percent reduction overall. The PoU has shrunk by a remarkable 68.5 percent, falling from 30.6 percent in 1990-92 to less than 10 percent in 2014-2016. Most countries in South-Eastern Asia are making progress towards international targets. Cambodia, Indonesia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam account for this performance.

“No country in the [SEA] region shows lack of progress with respect to the international targets. Brunei Darussalam and Malaysia have reduced their PoU to below the 5-percent threshold, which means they are close to having eradicated hunger.”

Western Asia (the Middle East) presents contrasting pictures, with resource-rich economies having achieved both the MDG 1C and WFS hunger targets. Iraq and Yemen show high levels of food insecurity.

With the MDGs transitioning to SDGs, nations will shape a new 15-year sustainable development agenda that will still confront poverty and inequality, plus climate change. In September, world leaders will gather at the UN in New York to work on this new global agenda that will guide policymaking and funding. In December they will meet at the Paris Climate Conference for a global agreement on climate change.

Are we ready to shape the future that we want?

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Send feedback to [email protected] or www.ceresdoyo.com.

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TAGS: Food and Agriculture Organization, Millennium Development Goals, Sustainable Development Goals, UN, United Nations Development Programme
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