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Friday, November 09, 2007

11M Filipinos among 1B living on less than $1/day

First posted 07:14:04 (Mla time) November 08, 2007
Minerva Generalao Eliza Victoria
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines -- Some 11 million Filipinos are among the 1 billion people across the globe living on less than $1 a day, the threshold defined as extreme poverty by the United Nations, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Three-fourths of the world’s poorest live in Sub-Saharan Africa, the only region where ultra poverty predominates, said the study titled “The World’s Most Deprived: Characteristics and Causes of Extreme Poverty and Hunger,” which the IFPRI released on Tuesday.

Among 119 developing countries and countries in transition in 2003, the Philippines was ranked 72nd -- the highest among the Southeast Asian nations included in the study.

The Philippines had a Global Hunger Index (GHI) of 17.55, which indicates a “serious problem” in hunger. Belarus, a former member of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, topped the list with a GHI of 1.59.


Francisco Inorme, 78, can be considered one of the world’s most deprived.

He makes a living by mending shoes in a stall beside the Barangay UP Campus clinic in Diliman, Quezon City.

Asked where he lives, he points at a house across the street, where he rents a small room for P1,000 a month.

He supports his wife, sick in-laws (who live on Batasan Road) and some of his children, most of whom already have their own families.

“Sometimes my children will drop by,” Inorme says, a native of Masbate. “They’d tell me, ‘Papa, your grandchild has nothing to eat.’ So I’ll give them a hundred pesos and borrow food from a karinderya in Krus na Ligas.” (Krus na Ligas is a nearby barangay.)

Inorme, who charges P40 per pair of shoes, says on good days he earns P200 a day. But dividing this daily income equally among himself, his wife and his wife’s parents gives him a share of a meager P50 a day. “And these are on good days,” says Inorme.

“There have been weeks where I only earn one hundred pesos a day.”

The IFPRI study shows that Inorme could be out of poverty if interventions could be made.

The study, presented at the 2020 Conference in Beijing that IFPRI organized, identified the world’s poorest and the policies that could help them move out of poverty.

The study was conducted to see if the first of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) -- to halve the number of people living in extreme poverty and hunger by 2015 -- can be achieved.

The MDGs were contained in the Millennium Declaration adopted by 189 member-states of the United Nations in September 2000.

The study found that the world had made considerable progress in reducing the number of people living on less than $1 a day from 28.6 percent in 1990 to 18.0 percent in 2004.

But it said economic growth did not have the same impact on those considered poor. Income growth benefited those just below the poverty line, but not the most deprived.

The study said that of those subsisting on less than a dollar a day, half a billion lived on less than 75 cents a day (medial poor) and 162 million on less than 50 cents (ultra poor).

Seventh most populous

“This is a significant number of people: If all of the ultra poor were concentrated in a single nation, it would be the world’s seventh most populous country after China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Brazil and Pakistan,” IFPRI said.

The Philippines is not one of the countries included in the study, but in response to e-mailed questions, Veronica O’Connor from IFPRI provided poverty statistics on the Philippines.

She said that 13.5 percent or about 11 million Filipinos lived on less than $1 a day; 9.1 percent or 7.4 million are subjacent poor (living on 75 cents to $1) and 4.4 percent or 3.6 million were medial poor (living on 50 to 75 cents). There is no figure for the ultra poor (living on less than 50 cents).

She said these figures were calculated from the POVCAL (Program For Calculating Poverty Measures From Grouped Data) website, a compilation of poverty data from country household surveys and posted on the Web by the World Bank.

The most unfortunate consequence of widespread poverty is that more than 800 million people cannot afford an adequate diet, according to the study.

Hunger index

Progress in meeting the hunger MDG was examined by using the Global Hunger Index (GHI), which includes three indicators -- the proportion of people who are food-energy deficient as estimated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the prevalence of underweight in children under the age of 5 as estimated by the World Health Organization, and the under-5 mortality rate as estimated by United Nations Children’s Fund.

The ranking showed that the hot spots of hunger were also in Sub-Saharan Africa, which indicates a direct relationship between hunger and poverty.

O’Connor said that the GHI index of 17.55 for the Philippines was derived from 22 percent of people who are calorie deficient for 2000-02, 27.4 percent of children under-5 who were underweight in 2003, and a mortality rate of 36 per 1,000, or 3.6 percent, for under-5.

The percentages roughly correspond to 17.6 million Filipinos who are calorie deficient; 2.2 million Filipino children under 5 who are underweight; and 0.3 million Filipino children dying before their fifth birthday each year.

“Poor households and individuals are unable to achieve food security, have inadequate resources for care, or cannot utilize resources for health on a sustainable basis,” the study said.

Far from roads, schools

The study also found that “the poorest and most undernourished households are located farthest from roads, markets, schools, and health services” and “adults in ultra poverty are significantly less likely to be educated, be they male or female.”

Despite the global trend of poverty shifting toward urban areas, the incidence of poverty is still higher in rural areas, the study said.

As poverty deepens, the income disparities between rural and urban areas tend to increase. On average, poverty rates are 2.4 times higher for the subjacent poor and 2.7 times higher for the medial poor in rural areas than for their counterparts in urban areas.

Poverty traps

But the poverty rates for the ultra poor are nearly four times higher in rural areas than in urban areas.

The study also said that the coincidence of severe and persistent poverty and hunger indicated the presence of poverty traps -- conditions from which individuals or groups cannot emerge without the help of others.

The three most common traps are the inability of poor households to invest in the education of their children, the limited access to credit for those with few assets, and the lack of productive labor of the hungry.

Within a trap, “poverty begets poverty and hunger begets hunger,” the study said.

The study noted that the slow progress in reducing ultra poverty and the relative lack of success in reaching the very poorest clearly demonstrated that “business as usual” would not be good enough to reach the poorest within an acceptable timeframe.

To help the poorest move out of poverty, IFPRI suggested the improvement of access to markets and basic services for those in the most remote rural areas, greater investment in education for those with few assets, and the prevention of child malnutrition.
IFPRI was established in 1975 and is one of the 15 agricultural research centers that receive funding from governments, private foundations, and international and regional organizations, most of which are members of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.