Hontiveros bats for “accelerated” implementation of feeding programs to avert hunger crisis
Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday urged the Inter-Agency Task Force on Zero Hunger to accelerate the implementation of national feeding programs to mitigate the effects of a hunger crisis in nutrition, saying these programs have already secured appropriations for 2021.
“May inilaan tayong budget para sa feeding at nutrition programs ng gobyerno. Walang dahilan para hindi ito agaran at epektibong maisagawa lalo pa ngayon na may napipintong krisis sa kagutuman,” she said.
“Pataas na nang pataas ang presyo ng bilihin, pataas na rin nang pataas ang bilang ng mga nawawalan ng trabaho, dapat tumataas din ang efforts ng gobyerno para maiwasang manganak pa ng ibang problema gaya ng malnutrisyon sa ating mga kabataan at kababaihan,” she added.
Hontiveros specifically mentioned the urgent and efficient execution of supplementary and school-based feeding programs under Republic Act (RA) No. 11037 or the ‘Masustansyang Pagkain para sa Batang Pilipino Act, which according to her had an allocated budget of more than P3.8B in 2021.
“We already have existing policies addressing the nutrition situation of the country and the budget to be able to do so. What we need is a sense of urgency and to ensure that these programs are implemented efficiently,” she said. “Kahit walang physical classes, dapat naihahatid sa bahay ng mga bata ang food packs na may lamang masustansyang pagkain.”
Last year, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the agency in-charge of government’s supplemental feeding program, was short around 700,000 children of their 1.88M target beneficiaries. “Sa panahon ngayon ng kawalan ng trabaho at pagtaas ng presyo ng pagkain, baka mas dumami pa ang mga batang dapat maisama sa programa. During budget deliberations, we were able to boost the budget to help DSWD cover at least 25% of its shortage translating to an additional 185,000 children who can be accommodated in the program. Gamitin sana ng tama at mabilis ang pondo,” she furthered.
The Senator also underscored the need for the Task Force to scale up its efforts to ensure that pregnant women and their babies will not suffer from hunger. According to Hontiveros, adequate funding support for pregnant women and newborn babies in the first 1,000 days is mandated under RA 11148 or the Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Mag-Nanay Act, a law which she sponsored and co-authored.
“Napakahalaga ng unang 1000 days ng mga bata para sa kanilang tamang paglaki. Kailangan silang protektahan laban sa sakit at komplikasyon dala ng gutom. Dapat siguraduhin din na makakakain ng sapat at masustansaya ang parehong nanay at bata lalo na sa mga pinakamahihirap na kabahayan, mula sa mga siyudad hanggang sa pinakamalalayong barangay,” she said.
“We must protect our women and children at all cost because this also means securing our future.” she added.
Hontiveros stated that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a threat not only to the health and livelihood of Filipinos, but also to food security and nutrition. She added that the failure to take urgent action could result in a massive ‘food emergency’ that is even ‘deadlier than the coronavirus’.
“Even before the virus hit, involuntary hunger and malnutrition were already on the rise. According to the national Social Weather Stations Survey, there are around 4 million families who experienced involuntary hunger in the last quarter of 2020. This is twice as many compared in 2019. Kung hindi tayo kikilos at gagawa ng aksyon, marami ang mamamatay, hindi sa COVID-19 kundi sa gutom,” she concluded. ###