The government is committed to work harder to further reduce the country’s hunger figures to pre-pandemic level, according to Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles (PCOO / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Nograles, chair of the government’s anti-hunger task force, recognized the importance of reopening the economy to stimulate job generation and help Filipinos put food on the table.

“While some progress has been made to reduce the number of families that have experienced involuntary hunger in the fourth quarter of this year, we understand that we will have to work harder to lower hunger figures to their pre-pandemic rates,” he said.

“We view the 14 percentage point-drop in total hunger between September 2020 and December 2020 as an indicator that government efforts to reopen the economy have helped provide families with the income necessary to provide for their basic needs, such as food,” he added.

A recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey, conducted last November, showed that 16 percent or around 4 million families experienced involuntary hunger or hunger due to lack of food at least once in the past three months.

The hunger level was lower than 30.7 percent or around 7.6 million families recorded in September. The rate however is higher than pre-pandemic level 8.8 percent or 2.1 million in December 2019.

Nograles said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the country’s recovery prospects next year. He said the country is “in a good position to recover and rebound” from the pandemic and “regain its status as one of the most promising and dynamic economies in the region.”

The government has started to ease the strict lockdown and allowed more businesses to operate to stimulate the economy weakened by the pandemic. The public however has been repeatedly advised to comply with health protocols, including wearing of masks and safe distancing, to curb the spread of the outbreak.

“With the economy on the rebound, more of our countrymen will be able to resume their livelihoods, especially in the tourism and services sectors. This, in our view, will help reduce hunger in the country,” Nograles said.

With more people allowed to return to work, he noted that the family income has so far improved. “As a consequence family profit-earners are now able to better provide for their families and put food on the table,” he said.

He also noted that while unemployment has been halved between April and October this year, the number of families who experienced hunger have also been nearly halved.

“We recognize how important it is for the government to safely reopen the economy in order for the country’s citizens to return to work and subsequently inspire consumer confidence to help boost economic activity,” he said.

Source: Manila Bulletin (