Pandemic ‘exacerbated’ PH’s food security, nutrition problems, NEDA chief tells UN meet
MANILA, Philippines — The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) chief has admitted before a UN meeting that the pandemic “exacerbated” the challenges being faced by the Philippines in terms of food security and nutrition, and sought “stronger collaboration” from member countries.
Newly-appointed NEDA Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua underlined the significance of collective action to “overcoming this unprecedented crisis” during the 54th session of the United Nations Commission on Population and Development (UNCPD) in New York City on April 19.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the challenges we are facing in securing food, nutrition, and good health for all Filipinos. Overcoming this unprecedented crisis requires stronger collaboration,” Chua said during the online meeting.
Citing 2019 data, Chua said 5.8 percent or around 600,000 among children under five years old are victims of acute malnourishment while 19 percent or 2.1 million, are underweight, and 28.8 percent or 3.2 million are subject to stunted growth.
“Let us continue to work hard together to ensure that our common goal of human capital development is fully realized,” he added.
Chua also highlighted the Philippine government’s effort and commitment to strengthening efforts to the protection and advancement of the gains of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) during the session.
According to Chua: “Population planning and food security are key to unlocking the Philippines’ growth potential, as well as the health and welfare of all Filipinos.”
“Our goal is to give every Filipino access to quality healthcare, nutrition services, and family planning by implementing laws on Universal Health Care, as well as those for Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health.”
The ICPD is a gathering of global stakeholders that aims to fulfill the promises in the Program of Action, focusing on sexual and reproductive health care services as well as rights.
It also strives to achieve universal access to sexual and reproductive health, which covers family planning, safe pregnancy, women’s empowerment, and gender equality.
Chua further underscored during the UN body meeting the Philippines’ Rice Tariffication Law as among factors that have enabled the government to improve food security in the country and agriculture productivity.
Chua said the law was enacted to bring down rice prices for the benefit of all Filipinos—especially the poor—and improved the country’s food security, “while enhancing productivity and competitiveness of rice farmers.”
Undersecretary for the Commission Population and Development (POPCOM) Juan Antonio Perez III supported Chua by saying that the government is “aggressively pursuing” strategic actions to ensure reproductive health and rights of every Filipino are promoted and protected against persistent threats of the present health crisis.
“Our whole-of-nation approach is laying concrete efforts to ensure availability and access of family planning, as well as other reproductive health information and services at the community level as a critical pandemic response,” Perez noted.
“This includes policies in strengthening the national family planning program and establishing mechanisms to influence internal migration toward highly urbanized areas,” he added.
After the meeting, the UNCPD called for urgent action to feed the world’s population in a “healthy, equitable and sustainable way.”
The UNCPD said the pandemic has added between 83 and 132 million to the 690 million people worldwide — including those from the Philippines — who are already undernourished.
It also raised questions on the chances of meeting global targets on food security and nutrition, as it called for the revisiting of international food systems.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.