Poverty pandemic at the time of Covid-19

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Davao City — As the novel coronavirus outbreak placed millions under lockdowns and ravaged the country’s economy, a survey from the Social Weather Station (SWS) noted that the number of Filipino families who experienced hunger nearly doubled the first quarter of the current year.

The survey of 4,010 working-age Filipinos showed that 16.7%, which translates to about 4.2 million nationwide, have experienced hunger for lack of food to eat at least once in the past three months.

Mariano, 34, married and has 3 school-age children was a tricycle driver by day, and (occasional) balot vendor by night prior to the current health crisis. He said in vernacular, “I lost both sources of income during the outbreak. We relied heavily on assistance which government, relatives and private individuals would extend. Indeed, these are hard times, and eating one whole meal a day is already a blessing”.

The latest poll result was nearly double the 8.8% or around 2.1 million families reported in December 2019. The same figure is also noted as the highest hunger rate since 22% or around 4.8 million families registered in September 2014.

Further, the same figure is also translated into the number of Filipino households who experienced moderate hunger which soared to 13.9%, around 3.5 million families, from 7.3% in December 2019.

Moderate hunger refers to those who experienced hunger ‘only once’ or a ‘few times’ while severe hunger refers to those who experienced it ‘often’ or ‘always’.

The survey says those who dealt with severe hunger rose to 2.8%, around 699,000 families, from 1.5% in the last quarter of 2019.

The hunger rate in Metro Manila, being the epicenter of the Covid-19 outbreak, spiked to a high of 20.8% or 693,000 families in May from 9.3% or 307,000 families.

In the Visayas, some 14.6% or 685,000 families went hungry from 9.3% or 436,000 in the last quarter of the year; while 24.2% or 1.4 million experienced hunger in Mindanao from 12.7% or around 709,000 families in December 2019.

The SWS survey showed that hunger was higher among those with less formal education: 21.1% among non-elementary graduates and 24.4% among elementary graduates, compared to 16.5% among high school graduates and 6.9% among college graduates.

Mariano, being a tricycle driver over the past 15 years, depended largely on whatever he earns from 6 o’clock in the morning until around 8 in the evening. He plies the main city routes of Toril district in Davao City each day and brings home an average income of 700 to 900. He said, “it is never enough to cover the rate of house rent, bills on utilities, school fees and miscellaneous expense, and, daily food on the table”.

Coping with the impact of the current health crisis, Mariano said “it is poverty pandemic that is more devastating as we lost everything, our sources of income, and now, our children’s education is also at stake. We do not know what options to take to rise up from this difficulty”.

The same poll noted that 99% of the respondents received food assistance from the government.

The survey was conducted using a mobile phone and computer-assisted telephone interviews from May 4 to 10 due to lockdown restrictions. It has a margin of error of ±2% for national percentages.

Meantime, the United Nations’ World Food Programme in April said that the number of people facing hunger worldwide could double this year to 265 million due to the restrictions linked to the coronavirus pandemic.-Daisy Apat/ Newsline

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