Youth Development in the PhilippinesThe Philippines has an opportunity for rapid economic growth and the potential to greatly innovate industry across the country. This opportunity comes from the number of young people in the country. Young people account for 50% of the entire population of the nation, leaving it with immense potential for economic growth as these young people begin to enter the workforce. Youth development in the Philippines is crucial for the country’s transformation into a resilient nation.

The Education Problem

Unfortunately for the Philippines, an alarming portion of these young people are currently not in any form of education or employment. One-fifth of all youth in the Philippines are either jobless or not attending school or employment training.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Philippines was facing an education crisis. The country placed last in reading comprehension and second to last in both science and mathematics in an international student assessment.

USAID: Youth Development in the Philippines

USAID has committed to help improve and promote public education and other forms of education in the Philippines. Starting in 2018, USAID began a five-year effort to create a series of programs aimed at uplifting economically disenfranchised Filipino youth who are at the most risk of poverty.

One program, in particular, YouthWorks PH is a five-year partnership between USAID and the Philippine Business for Education that engages the private sector to address the education needs of youth as well as the skill requirements of employers. This partnership will improve access to training and employment opportunities for at least 40,000 youth through an innovative work-based training approach. Young people are able to earn a competency certificate from a university or training institute while working in partner companies.

More than 5,000 young Filipinos will have access to free technical and vocational training as a result of this initiative partnering with Aboitiz Construction and D.M. Consunji, Inc. (DMCI), two of the biggest construction companies in the country.

This type of on-site vocational training will help prepare youth for well-paid employment opportunities and will create more skilled workers in the Philippines.

There are also other programs created by USAID specifically to increase the quality and accessibility of education in the Philippines. All Children Reading (ACR), is a program to increase the reading skills of Filipino children. ABC+ aims to address the interconnected factors that contribute to low education outcomes in the poorest performing areas of the Philippines.

Youth Development Potential

Young Filipino people could potentially bring about massive economic growth in the country. In order to fully capitalize on this opportunity, resources and development opportunities must be provided to the youth so that they can fully integrate into the workforce as skilled workers. For this reason, the youth development work of USAID is integral. Not only will it lift thousands of poor Filipino youth out of poverty but it will help create a stronger economy for the Philippines.

– Christopher McLean
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in the Philippines
The Philippines, located in Southeast Asia, is an archipelagic state that holds the third-largest Catholic population in the world. General statistics on period poverty in the Philippines are limited, but the religious influence has been blocking a broader question of whether the country should implement sex education or not. Reproductive health legislation poses a risk to bilateral relations between the government and Church, holding lawmakers at an impasse.

The Situation

In the Philippines, many young women endure menstruation as a major economic and social determinant of success. Students, in particular, are ill-equipped to navigate their menarches, and the period stigma impacts the quality of their education and future. Policies to address this issue have been mostly ungenerous, with some advancements happening under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration. During the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations have been advocating to push period awareness campaigns to the forefront of the public health agenda.

According to a survey that G.M.A. News conducted, most voters support the idea of government-regulated sex education efforts. However, political progress has been slow at best; the Church holds enough public sway to delay any legislative initiatives. The Philippines did not enforce the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Act of 2012 until 2019, when Duterte signed an executive order to mandate free reproductive health services, albeit against the will of the Church.

Sex Education in the Philippines

Though the 2012 law includes mandating sex education in school curricula, people have mostly overlooked its application. Determining lessons on periods falls to the jurisdiction of the teachers, most of whom are male, and it is in this setting where many girls start to fall behind because of their menstrual cycles. Currently, the way most young people learn about menstruation is from their mothers who tell the girls to sit on a coconut shell to alleviate their cramps. They receive little help from their teachers and face standard forms of subtle embarrassment common to girls who get their menses for the first time.

The school setting also represents the larger-scale issues for people who menstruate in the Philippines. Toilets are limited in number and privacy, and windows are in poor positions allowing boys to peep at girls who are doing their business. Likewise, 14% of workplaces have inadequate toilets for women, and women must habitually carry their own toilet paper because restrooms have limited water for flushing and hand-washing.

Improving sex education could be a largely successful target to combatting period poverty in the Philippines. A U.N. WASH study identified four key recommendations to improving girls’ menstrual health in the Philippines including better education, improved facilities and greater access to menstrual products and support systems for girls who take an absence. Though period poverty remains largely unchecked, further observation would promote the general betterment necessary to combat women’s health inequities.

Initiatives to Help Fight the Period Stigma

At the social level, humanitarian organizations use community initiatives to provide support for people who menstruate. Save the Children Philippines assigns resident volunteers and teen advocates to dismantle menstrual health stigmas by reaching out to their peers with advice, support and educational tools. However, COVID-19 has intensified the crisis. Save the Children Philippines CEO Alberto Muyot told Business Mirror that now would be the key time to put menstrual health at the forefront of public health solutions. Currently, Save the Children Philippines is providing resources like hygienic kits and food offerings to combat the pandemic.

Addressing the period stigma is another initiative that comes in the form of an innovative strategy. Menstrual cups have had a profound impact on period poverty around the world; as a more economical and comfortable option than their disposable counterparts, they provide a solution that generally improves the standard of living. Sinaya Cup, a small business, retails menstrual cups catered to the specific needs and challenges girls face in the Philippines. For instance, besides promoting menstrual cups solely as an eco-friendly and comfortable solution, Sinaya Cup also promises a waterproof quality important to girls who wish to participate in recreational activities like biking, trekking and climbing.

The attitudes surrounding menstrual health is a global issue that chronically impacts the economic wellbeing of women. Addressing the stigma requires a multifaceted solution. The emergence of COVID-19 has amplified concerns regarding where women fit into the public health conversation, making now the opportune time to address the issue of period poverty. Dismantling period poverty in the Philippines might begin with government and community initiatives, but the state must consider adapting its sectarian views to accommodate the needs of women’s health.

– Danielle Han
Photo: Unsplash

hiv epidemic in the philippinesThe HIV epidemic in the Philippines is the fastest-growing in the Asia and Pacific region. According to UNAIDS data, HIV prevalence in the Philippines increased by 207% from 2010 to 2019. AIDS-related deaths rose by 338% in the same period. In 2019, an estimated 97,000 people were living with HIV in the Philippines. Of those, 73% knew their status and 44% were receiving antiretroviral treatment.

Although these statistics indicate some progress, the Philippines still falls far below the 90-90-90 target set by UNAIDS. Aimed at ending the HIV epidemic by 2020, the program wanted to ensure that 90% of people living with HIV would know their HIV status. It also strove to give 90% of people with a diagnosed HIV antiretroviral therapy and induce viral suppression in 90% of those receiving treatment. Unfortunately, the world is not on track to meet these goals, and new targets are being developed for 2025.

Populations Most Affected

The prevalence rate of HIV in the Philippines among adults ages 15 to 49 was 0.2% in 2019. This national rate, however, masks alarmingly high prevalence rates among specific populations. The groups most affected by the HIV epidemic in the Philippines often face social stigma, isolation and legally sanctioned discrimination. These populations include people who inject drugs (PWID), men who have sex with men (MSM), sex workers and transgender people. However, new technologies, programs and initiatives are working to lessen the burden of disease and stigma on these populations.

People Who Inject Drugs

According to UNAIDS, the HIV prevalence rate among people who inject drugs in the Philippines is 29%. Among PWID, only 26.9% have been tested and are aware of their status. Key factors fueling the HIV epidemic in the Philippines among PWID include hostile public opinion and brutal law enforcement. These constitute major barriers to HIV testing and awareness. While official statistics released in 2018 revealed that over 4,500 drug users were victims of extrajudicial killings, civil society estimated the true toll to be as high as 20,000.

Progress in HIV testing is crucial to reduce HIV prevalence among PWID, who struggle to access services due to their criminalized status. Various alternative testing methods, such as rapid finger-prick testing, can reduce barriers to testing for PWID. In particular, self-testing kits, which allow people to test in private, have attracted a large proportion of first-time testers in Thailand and have achieved impressive success in China.

Men Who Have Sex With Men

The HIV prevalence rate among men who have sex with men is 5%, the second-highest among key affected populations. MSM who fear social stigma and discrimination often do not participate in HIV prevention programs. As a result, the participation rate for these programs is 14.6%, and the majority of MSM lack awareness about HIV. Condom use in this population is also low at 40.1%. However, condom distribution and sex education programs would benefit MSM, many of whom reported not using condoms because they were “not available.” Fighting the HIV epidemic in the Philippines means tailoring help to MSM.

Sex Workers

Female sex workers in the Asia and Pacific region are 29 times more likely to be living with HIV than other adult women of reproductive age. The HIV prevalence rate among sex workers in the Philippines is now 0.6%. This group has the highest rates among affected populations for coverage in prevention programs and condom use, which are 71.8% and 85.3%, respectively. Many important national HIV prevention programs raise awareness about HIV and encourage condom use among sex workers. These programs include the 100% Condom Use Program, the HIV Counseling and Testing Service, and programs led by the Philippine National AIDS Council.

Transgender People

Transgender people are one of the populations most affected by the HIV epidemic in the Philippines, with a prevalence rate of 3.9%. However, there is little information or research about the effects of HIV on the transgender community in the Philippines. A key problem is the lack of transgender visibility due to social exclusion and widespread stigma. This challenges efforts to obtain health data and develop targeted programs to support transgender individuals. To raise awareness about gender identities and transgender acceptance, sexual health education and gender studies programs must be more inclusive. This would help reduce the stigma and barriers to healthcare for transgender people in the Philippines and engage them in HIV prevention and treatment programs.

The Effect of COVID-19

Lockdowns in the Philippines due to COVID-19 have blocked access to essential services for HIV patients, including treatment and testing. Eamonn Murphy, UNAIDS regional director for Asia and the Pacific, stressed that the Philippines needs to do more to convince those in high-risk populations to seek out HIV-related services.

Continued attention to these key affected populations is necessary to reduce HIV prevalence rates and make progress toward HIV eradication. In this way, focused programs can work toward lessening the severity of the HIV epidemic in the Philippines.

– Alice Nguyen
Photo: Flickr

Clean Drinking Water in the PhilippinesAccording to the World Health Organization (WHO), 2.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking, with people in rural areas with limited infrastructure being mostly affected. Within the Philippines, this concept manifests in that 91% of the country’s estimated 100.7 million population have access to basic water services, but access is highly inequitable across the country, with regional basic water services access ranging from 62% to 100%. To combat water insecurity, government bodies, non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) and independent parties have collaborated to ensure that all citizens have access to clean drinking water in the Philippines.

The Philippine Clean Water Act

In 2004, the government passed the Philippine Clean Water Act which aims to protect water bodies from pollution and monitor their safety. This was implemented through multiple boards of governors and local mayors who were given specific water sources to monitor and maintain. By localizing management, the government found that leaders were more driven to clean their water because it affected their personal community. In addition, this strategy hinged upon community involvement as well, which led to a greater public awareness of water sanitation. In other countries with a similar problem, this localized strategy could work to create a body of legislators invested in water access, which would lead to cleaner water overall.

Hydropanel Fields

Water sanitizing technology has also been instrumental in guaranteeing access to all populations in the Philippines, specifically the rural ones. For the indigenous people of Palawan, the lack of clean drinking water is due to their lack of access to city centers and infrastructure. SOURCE Global and Conservation International collaborated to create a field of hydropanels that will create 40,000 liters of clean drinking water each year. Because the hydropanels are portable and easy to assemble, they can theoretically be used anywhere in the world. This opens up possibilities globally for communities with inadequate drinking water access. Going forward, this model could be used to eradicate water insecurity.

Water.org

Another influential NGO has been Water.org, which provides no-interest loans to families trying to gain access to clean water in their homes. These loans are used to rig homes with plumbing as well as build wells. The organization is unique in that it addresses the economic issues associated with a lack of clean water. Without clean water, families contract diseases at higher rates, which limits their ability to work and earn an income. In addition, because these illnesses tend to affect children at higher proportions, access to clean water means a chance for education. Water.org’s belief is that by providing rural communities with their own funding, the people in that community will be able to build themselves up independently and ensure a legacy of success. As of now, the goal of the organization is to help the government in the Philippines reach its goal of access to clean drinking water for all by 2028.

Other Organizations for Water Access

Two other notable NGOs are DAI and Clean Water International. Both of these organizations work globally to ensure all people have access to clean water. In the Philippines, DAI specifically works to improve sanitation techniques. This has been accomplished through infrastructure projects that transport water in safer ways as well as education campaigns that teach communities how to check if the water is clean and how to clean it properly. Similar to this, Clean Water International has worked to increase sanitation. Both of these organizations maintain that proper sanitation is essential to access to clean water and have provided the funds to create proper water sanitation.

Access to Clean Drinking Water

Without access to clean water, communities are barred from work opportunities, exposed to disease and experience the effects of poverty at higher proportions. As seen in the Philippines, a multi-faceted and robust approach is needed to address this crisis and it requires the cooperation of all. The problem of lack of access to clean drinking water in the Philippines cannot be addressed simply by giving communities water bottles. It must be a ground-up approach that gives communities the tools to create and access clean water for years to come.

– Mary Buffaloe
Photo: Flickr

HIV in the PhilippinesThe Philippines is designated as a quickly growing epicenter of the HIV epidemic. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, HIV in the Philippines was surging, largely due to their poor healthcare system. There is fear that the COVID-19 pandemic may exacerbate such difficulties due to restricted public transportation, the establishment of checkpoints and consequently, the inaccessibility of treatment.

While the COVID outbreak has many downsides, it may provide an opportunity to improve HIV services in the Philippines. Advocacy groups, community-based organizations and volunteers are now uniting to foster innovative solutions for the HIV epidemic.

The Philippines’ Department of Health Adopts Telemedicine

Travel and physical distancing restrictions have disrupted the supply and distribution of antiretroviral drugs; these drugs are essential for Filipino people living with HIV (PLHIV). Therefore, the Philippines’ Department of Health (DOH) recommends HIV facilities adopt an online courier service. This would ensure access to treatment while minimizing the risk of patient and staff exposure to COVID-19. This method allows PLHIV to choose their preferred medicine pick-up location and time through a mobile application.

The DOH’s plan for app-based medication distribution is key to enhancing the quality of HIV treatment and counseling. This app also improves HIV healthcare for the post-COVID world. However, this is not the only way Filipinos are improving HIV healthcare. Officials are working to give community-based organizations opportunities to participate in the DOH’s endeavors. These efforts are a favorable step towards the efficient mitigation of HIV in the Philippines.

Community-Based Organizations Revamping the Philippines’ HIV Healthcare Services

Network Plus Philippines, Pinoy Plus Advocacy Pilipinas, Red Whistle and TLF Share Collective are coordinating to implement a new guideline issued by the Philippines’ DOH. The guideline guarantees that PLHIV will receive their medicine through courier services, focusing on PLHIV in rural communities. Examples of contributions from community-based organizations are listed below:

  1. Red Whistle: Red Whistle mobilized 40 volunteers to collect antiretroviral refills from treatment facilities and deliver them across the country. It has worked with local authorities to avoid disclosure of confidential clientele information and partnered with MapBeks, an online mapping community, to create the #OplanARVayanihan: a map showing the nearest antiretroviral drug centers and delivery options.
  2. TLF Share Collective: TLF Share Collective has helped to deliver antiretroviral therapy to Filipinos. It has developed a tool to monitor medication delivery by community volunteers and created FAQ-cards for patients.
  3. Pinoy Plus Advocacy Pilipinas: PPAP has established a PLHIV Response Center where people with HIV can ask for information about accessible treatment hubs and advice on antiretroviral therapy.

International Assistance

In addition to the community-based organizations’ efforts to eliminate HIV in the Philippines, the international community has also provided guidance through programming and financing.

For example, UNAIDS has coordinated with The United Nations Development Programme to advise the Philippines’ Government on how to manage their HIV problem in the context of COVID. The UN’s creation of an analytical survey has revealed valuable information on the issues affecting PLHIV. These issues range from concerning factors like the feeble safeguarding of human rights to a lack of access to mental health and social protection services.

Similarly, USAID, The U.S. Agency for International Development, is collaborating with the Filipino government to assist them in establishing universal health care. Together, they are addressing legislative and institutional obstacles within their health financing system. The USAID’s services include prevention programming and case identification to strengthen epidemic control; funding streams from the Department of Health and local health budgets that align with UHC Law Provisions; and estimates for total future domestic investment requirements.

While COVID-19 presented a scope of challenges for HIV treatment and care services, it also propelled community-based organizations, the Filipino Government and international institutions to cooperate and execute innovative policies. The Philippines’ healthcare system will continue to combat HIV and become a robust system devoid of the defects that COVID-19 highlighted.

Joy Arkeh
Photo: Flickr

Green Shoots Foundation is Fighting Poverty
Founded in 2010, the Green Shoots Foundation has been working toward poverty relief through holistic and sustainable development programs. An additional focus on bolstering economies and education helps empower the areas of Africa and Asia the foundation specializes in. The Green Shoots Foundation is fighting poverty by using accountability and transparency to achieve its goals. It organizes its missions into three particular programming areas:

  • Education Loans & Social Entrepreneurship (ELSE): This programming area works to enhance children’s education by promoting education in urban slums, fighting against the gender education gap and promoting social enterprises and urban entrepreneurship.
  • Food, Agriculture & Social Entrepreneurship (FASE): The ultimate objective in this programming area is to revitalize rural communities through agricultural training, sustainable gardens and social enterprise missions.
  • Medical Assistance & Medical Education (MAME): This programming area combats HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. MAME works with HIV professionals to transfer medical knowledge to locals and improve treatment accessibility.

The Food, Agriculture & Social Entrepreneurship Sector (FASE)

The Food, Agriculture & Social Entrepreneurship sector (FASE) of the Green Shoots Foundation is fighting poverty by working to restimulate rural economies through teaching sustainable agricultural skills and supporting business development.

Specific objectives characterize the goals of FASE and how they plan on improving the development in rural areas. These include:

  • Addressing a lack of education in the countryside
  • Promoting sustainable farming techniques
  • Addressing a lack of social capital in the countryside
  • Promoting rural entrepreneurship

FASE in the Philippines and Cambodia

FASE has completed notable work in the Philippines and Cambodia. In the Philippines, it is working to promote business opportunities for food and agriculture, as well as implement social innovation platforms such as the Enchanted Farm. The Enchanted Farm works to stimulate economic growth in different areas and simultaneously fight against poverty and food insecurity. Work in the Philippines has resulted in six-month long volunteer missions to help two different businesses that the Enchanted Farm is developing. In Cambodia, work has focused around horticulture education and environmental sustainability; 2014 proved to be a prominent year in FASE’s work as it implemented the Agricultural Skills in Public Schools (ASPUS) Project. Then, in 2018, the Agri-tech Training Center took the spotlight as the primary location for rural development and certified horticulture education in northwest Cambodia.

The Agri-tech Training Center

The Agri-tech Training Center serves as a community learning center that offers both training areas and demonstrations connected to rural development. These lessons have the intention of benefitting the public’s knowledge on agriculture. The center offers workshops on microfinance, nutrition and food growing. The center hopes to provide access to sustainable farming practices, improve the application of rural development skills in an ecofriendly way and enhance the capacity of young farmers for enterprise development. The organization also partners with five different local companies in North West Cambodia to help bolster its economy and build meaningful connections in the community. Each year, the center targets to train at least 200 local, young students. The Agri-tech Training Center advocates that training these young people will lead to local problem solving and increase entrepreneurship in the rural area.

The Green Shoots Foundation is fighting poverty through its work helping rural communities develop their economies through food and agriculture, education and medical aid. FASE’s vocational training staff at the Agri-tech Training Center has been working tirelessly to educate those in North West Cambodia on how to better themselves and their communities. Through the work of this foundation, people living in impoverished areas are able to combat hunger and bring themselves out of generational poverty.

– Hope Shourd
Photo: Flickr

sex education in the PhilippinesThe general purpose of sex education is to inform youth on topics including sex, sexuality and bodily development. Quality sex education can lead to better prevention in STDs and unwanted pregnancy. Furthermore, it decreases the risks of having unsafe sex and increases responsible family planning. To help address issues, like overpopulation, high rates of teen pregnancy and the rise of HIV, the Philippines is gradually implementing sex education and accessibility to contraceptives.

Reproductive Health Act

The Philippines passed the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 (RH Act) after a 14-year wait. Through the act, the government integrated sex education into the public school curriculum for students ages 10 to 19. The Philippines also gave funding for free or subsidized contraceptives at health centers and public schools.

The government passed the RH Act in response to the many health issues impacting the country, such as infant mortality, pregnancy-related deaths and a rise in HIV/AIDS cases. Moreover, teen pregnancies in the Philippines are common, where 9% of women between the ages of 15 and 19 start child bearing.

Lack of knowledge about reproductive health is significantly associated with poverty, especially in regard to overpopulation. Therefore, the RH Act aims to help the population make informed decisions about their reproductive health. It provides more equal access to sex education, while also ensuring that the government reaffirms its commitment to protecting women’s reproductive rights, providing accessible family planning information, and hiring skilled maternal health professionals to work in both urban and rural areas of the Philippines.

Opposition from the Catholic Church

Around 80% of the Philippine population identifies as Roman Catholic. Accordingly, the Catholic Church largely influences the state of sex education in the country. The Catholic Church opposes sex outside of marriage and fears sex education will increase sexual relations. The Catholic Church consequently remains critical of the RH Act, increasing difficulties in putting the RH Act into concrete action.

Additionally, the Catholic Church opposes implementing sex education in schools as well as the distribution of contraceptives. The Church prefers to rely on parents to teach their kids about reproductive health. However, many families are either unequipped to do so or will not address the subject directly with their children.

The Implementation of the RH Act

In an effort to reduce the country’s rate of poverty, Philippine President, Rodrigo Duerte, ordered the government to provide access to free contraceptives for six million women in 2017. Duerte aimed to fulfill unmet family planning needs. This came after a restraining order was placed on the RH Act in 2015. However, the government appealed to lift the restraining order to continue applying the RH Act and addressing issues due to overpopulation.

In 2019, Save the Children Philippines — an organization with the purpose of supporting Filipino children — advocated for the Teenage Pregnancy Prevention bill. The organization also fought for requiring schools to fully integrate Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) into their curriculum. Save the Children Philippines hopes to combat the country’s high rate of teen pregnancy. CSE in the Philippines includes topics such as consent, sexual violence, contraceptives and others. The bill would also advance access to reproductive health services, further supplementing the goals of the RH Act.

Increased Conversation Surrounding Sex Education

In addition to greater governmental action, there are various organizations that are working to increase access to sex education and services in the Philippines. The Roots of Health is a nongovernmental organization that provides sex education to women in Palawan and Puerto Princesa. Started in 2009, the founders, Dr. Susan Evangelista and Amina Evangelista Swanepoel, initially provided reproductive health classes at Palawan State University in Puerto Princesa and have since expanded into free clinical services for young women. The Roots of Health provides services that assist with birth, reproductive healthcare, contraceptives, prenatal and postpartum check-ups, and ultrasounds. By 2018, they served 20,000 women and adolescents in the Palawan and Puerto Princesa communities, demonstrating that there is a growing grassroots movement towards reframing reproductive health in the Philippines.

Sex education will remain a controversial subject in the Philippines. Nonetheless, it is a developing matter that is expected to evolve with continued conversations between governmental, faith and nongovernmental actors.

Zoë Nichols
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in the PhilippinesThe Philippines is a country in the Pacific Ocean that is made up of over 7,000 small islands. The Philippines struggles with issues of global poverty, healthcare and education. However, progress has been made in recent years to combat these issues and ensure that every Filipino citizen is able to live a healthy and happy life.

7 Facts About Poverty in the Philippines

  1. Data indicates that 16.6% of the population of the Philippines, or about 17.6 million people, live under the poverty line. Those who reside in rural areas have a much higher chance of experiencing poverty, with nearly one-third of those under the poverty line working as farmers.

  2. The Philippines is exposed to more natural disasters than any other nation in the world. These disasters, which include typhoons, earthquakes and cyclones, cause horrific devastation and contribute heavily to the high poverty rate in this country. Other causes of poverty in the Philippines include low job creation, low economic growth and high levels of population growth.

  3. For every 1,000 babies born in the Philippines, 28 die before they turn 5 years old. Many of these children die of pneumonia. The Philippines is one of the 15 countries that make up over 75% of the pneumonia deaths globally. A lower socioeconomic status, which often leads to limited access to vaccinations and healthcare options, contributes to this high rate of pneumonia.

  4. As of 2019, an estimated 64% of Filipino households struggle with food insecurity, and two in every 10 children under the age of 5 are underweight. The high rates of natural disasters and large numbers of people living in rural areas contribute to this hunger problem and make food inaccessible for many in the Philippines.

  5. The COVID-19 crisis has affected all aspects of life in the Philippines but especially food access. A study done in May of 2020 showed that 4.2 million families reported struggling with involuntary hunger, doubling since December 2019. This is likely due to the economic devastation and financial issues that many countries around the world have struggled with since the pandemic.

  6. The Filipino Government has launched its Philippines Development Plan in an effort to combat poverty and hunger and ramp up job creation in the country. This plan was initiated in 2011 and updated in 2017 and has reported remarkable success in job creation, education and poverty reduction.

  7. Various Filipino NGOs as well as some from outside of the country, have worked to combat poverty in the Philippines. A group called Zero Extreme Poverty PH 2030 (ZEP) has led the charge, dedicating itself to eliminating poverty in the nation by 2030 by enacting positive change in eight areas: education, environment, health, housing and shelter, livelihoods, peace and human security and social justice. In 2018, ZEP created a coalition of various NGOs from both the Philippines and around the world, with the goal of helping those living under the poverty line in the country.

Poverty Progress in the Philippines

While the Philippines still struggles with extreme poverty, especially in rural areas, progress is being made to combat the issues that this country is facing. These seven facts about poverty in the Philippines illuminate both the strides that are being made and the further steps that must be taken to improve the lives of Filipino people struggling with poverty and hunger.

– Daryn Lenahan
Photo: Flickr

NGOs Save Thousands in the Philippines
Just a few weeks after Super Typhoon Goni made landfall on the morning of November 11, 2020, Typhoon Vamco hit the Philippines. These tropical storms have destroyed homes, lives, livelihoods, essential infrastructure and families. Without a doubt, the results of these storms have been calamitously tragic. However, NGOs provide inspiration and hope in their work for the victims of these tropical storms. NGOs have saved thousands in the Philippines.

 VAMCO and Goni’s Destruction

 On November 1, 2020, super Typhoon Goni made landfall on Catanduanes’ island before moving north-west over Manila with reported wind speeds of 140mph. Goni – locally referred to as “Rolly”- is one of the most powerful storms to hit the Philippines in over a decade. A few days after the storm hit the Philippines, the damage was staggering: reports determined that the storm killed 16 people, demolished thousands of homes, destroyed tens of thousands of farmers’ crops (estimated damage of $36 million to crops alone) and affected over 2 million people.

Although less intense, Typhoon Vamco had winds measured at 90mph when it made landfall in Patnanungan. Although hard to separate the damage from these two storms, reports stated that Typhoon Vamco – locally known as Ulysses – has killed at least 67 people, cut power to millions, caused 100,000 evacuations and destroyed over 26,000 homes.

Flooding Exasperates the Catastrophe

Unfortunately, as the government can better assess the damages and missing people, and gather an overall better understand of the situation in the coming weeks and months, the financial damage and number of people displaced and killed will grow. However, what might prove to enlarge the numbers more than a better understanding of the situation is the flooding and significant landslides.

As of Nov. 18, the flooding is the worst in recent memory and has affected eight regions and 3 million people, with 70 dead. Two-story-high flooding that has caused power outages has either separated many from their homes or trapped them on their roofs, further disrupting rescue efforts. Although flooding has receded, many villages are still only reachable through the air.

Perhaps the worst affected area is the Cagayan Valley in northeast Luzon; of the 28 towns in the Cagayan province, 24 are underwater from severe flooding. Explaining this disproportionality in flood damage is the fact that a dam in the Cagayan Valley, the Magat Dam, had seven of its gates break open following the storm, causing mass amounts of water to pour into the valley (the dam released near two Olympic sized pools of water per second). Here, over 20 people have died while affecting nearly 300,000 people as what looks like a brown sea of dirty water and debris submerges the valley.

NGOs Step Up for Thousands

In the face of all this destruction, one can find hope in the work of NGOs. NGOs have saved thousands in the Philippines who were either trapped on rooftops or in evacuation centers after losing everything they have ever owned.

For instance, CARE is an organization providing aid during the flooding. It is primarily working in Amulung and Gattaran, assisting in rescue efforts and providing resources such as food, hygiene products, shelter repair kits and sanitation materials.

The Philippine Red Cross is deploying utility vehicles to ferry thousands so that they do not become stranded in flooded towns. Stories have even surfaced of Red Cross workers treading through floodwater with torches searching for stragglers and missing people. The organization provides relief materials to those it does save including tents, generators, food, cooking equipment and tarps. Additionally, as a preventative measure, the Philippine Red Cross evacuated people and animals to evacuation centers while also prepositioning emergency response teams in vulnerable areas.

UNICEF has also done life-saving work. Just a day before Vamco made landfall, UNICEF launched “its Super Typhoon Goni/Rolly appeal amounting to $3.7 million.” With this amount raised, UNICEF has supported the most vulnerable communities in gaining access to water, sanitation, hygiene, nutrition, education, health and protection services.

Vamco and Goni are tragedies that have negatively affected countless lives through displacement, death and the destruction of their home and valuables. Nonetheless, the optimist can find inspiration in the fact that: NGOs have saved thousands in the Philippines.

– Vincenzo Caporale
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Kalahan Forest Reserve
In 1971, the Philippine government passed Forestry Administrative Order No. 62 in an attempt to curb national resource deterioration and human displacement caused by increasing deforestation at the hands of agriculturalists and loggers. This administrative order initiated community-based forest governance systems in the Philippines. Shortly after in 1972, the government signed over to the indigenous Ikalahan people legal ownership of their ancestral lands. This step, eventually led to the creation of the Kalahan Forest Reserve.

Deforestation and Land Rights

Five villages of Ikalahan people, located in the northern part of the Philippine island of Luzon, convened to form the Kalahan Educational Foundation (KEF) to claim community ownership of 15,000 hectares of forested land. A memorandum from the federal government allowed the Ikalahan people to manage this land in exchange for the protection of a local watershed. This memorandum set a precedent for future indigenous land tenure rights cases.

KEF Forest Stewardship

Deforestation in the Philippines continued to rise following the 1971 government order, but on the Kalahan Forest Reserve, forest cover is increasing. The KEF executes a multifaceted approach to responsible forest stewardship. The KEF is under the leadership of spokespeople from nine communities within the reserve. It also includes youth and local government representatives. One division of the KEF ensures the local watershed remains unpolluted by wastes. Another oversees research and management of the forest and natural resources. This faction encourages responsible planting, harvesting and crop selection practices among farmers on the reserve. It also investigates forest resource improvements and agroforestry potential and manages land use and land allocation among local families.

Increased Access to Education

Also, the KEF established the Kalahan Academy. It is a facility dedicated to providing Ikalahans and other local children a formal education up to the 12th grade. The Kalahan Academy teaches its pupils about the sustainable forest and natural resource management and focuses on preserving indigenous Ikalahan culture. The academy encourages graduates to pursue a college education, after which many return to work as academy faculty and staff or in local government offices. Others find jobs outside of the Kalahan Forest Reserve, which alleviates local resource pressure and diversifies the communities’ economic opportunities.

Expanded Economic Opportunities

The KEF also established the Mountain Fresh product line. This product line includes preserves made from sustainably harvested indigenous plants like guava, hibiscus and ginger in local markets. Mountain Fresh preserves struggle to expand its market access due to transportation, marketing and raw material resource constraints, but institutional aid from NGOs like the Federation of Peoples’ Sustainable Development Cooperative helps the company to surmount these challenges. Other economic opportunities fostered by the KEF include the sale of sustainably harvested orchids and timber from agroforestry plots. Furthermore, the KEF Board of Trustees hopes to capitalize on carbon trading schemes. In 2002 alone, the Kalahan Forest Reserve sequestered over 38,000 tons of carbon. As the amount of forest cover on the reserve increases, so too does its potential to capture carbon.

Following the legal recognition of their indigenous land rights in 1972 by the Philippine government, the KEF instilled a conservation ethic among the Ikalahan people on the Kalahan Forest Reserve through sustainable forest stewardship practices and educational and economic opportunity. The profits from the KEF’s sustainable enterprises and the economic opportunity generated by formal education contribute to the improving quality of life for the Ikalahan people through local improvements and access to infrastructure, healthcare and education.

– Avery Saklad
Photo: Flickr