The United Nations urged the Philippine government Friday to implement food security and nutrition policies, noting that despite the country’s rise to a middle-income status in recent years, millions continue to suffer hunger and malnutrition, especially among children.
“There are severe implementation gaps in almost all policies related to the right to food with a lack of coordination among relevant agencies. I would urge the authorities to ensure the poorest of the poor are reached as a matter of priority without discrimination,” Hilal Elver said in at a press conference as she wrapped up her seven-day visit and assessment of the Philippine food situation.
Citing latest available data, Elver said an estimated 3.8 million households suffered involuntary hunger at least once during the last quarter of 2014, some 7.36 million children are malnourished and around four million children suffer from stunted growth.
Aside from the lack of political will to implement existing policies and budgetary constraints, the causes also include poverty, conflict within the country, environmental factors and a rash of other issues – including climate change.
“The effects of under-nutrition are irreversible, and lack of access to adequate and nutritious food is having a detrimental effect on future generations and must be addressed as a matter of urgency,” Elver said.
“Accessing adequate and nutritious food continues to be a challenge across most of the country, both in terms of under- and over-nutrition, with women and children faring worst,” she added, recalling personal encounters with the urban poor in the capital Manila, the survivors of super typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban City and farmers in central Luzon.
Elver said fishers and coconut farmers need the most help due to the lack of focus on them and their being most vulnerable amid the pressing problem of climate change. If addressed, they can also help resolve the issue of food supply within the Philippines.
The United Nations official said that to fully meet its human rights obligations with regard to the right to food, the Philippines must pass the Right to Adequate Food bill, which, among others, targets a zero-hunger case in 10 years and the creation of a central commission to implement the right to adequate food.
The passage of a National Land Use and Management Act and the Agrarian Reform Extension Law will also help address food security, she said.
“I have found that, for the most part, the Philippines has a wide range of well-formulated and well-intended policies and strategies to realize the right to food. However, legislation does not always translate into reality for many in the country,” Elver said.
She will submit her report on the Philippine situation to the U.N. Human Rights Council in March of 2016.