Philippines

Food security and nutrition roadmap: Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao

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INTRODUCTION

The Bangsamoro is heavily dependent on agriculture as one of its sources of livelihood. The region covers 11,608 km² or 4 percent of the country’s land area, with 4.12 million population. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority-BARMM, about 53 percent families in the region are poor and 29.1 percent of them were not able to meet their basic food needs during the first semester of 2018.

The Bangsamoro, a newly created autonomous region in the part of Mindanao Island in the Philippines, strives to resolve the alarming problem on food insecurity and malnutrition among its people especially in the rural areas. This is through and guided by the first-ever set of plans and strategies crafted through strong partnership between and among its ministries and the supporting development agencies.

The region just represents, on a smaller scale, the world that is also beset by the increasing trends of food insecurity among millions of people these days. For decades, the number of hungry people had been declining but this is not true anymore as stated in The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2019.

The Global Strategic Framework for Food Security and Nutrition declares that close to 925 million people in the world today, suffer from hunger and more than 200 million children under five years of age suffer from malnutrition. Causative to this phenomenon according to the Committee on Food Security (CSF) is the food crises of 2007-2008, followed by the financial and economic crisis in 2009 that continued until 2012.

These situations have escalated the challenges faced by millions of families around the world in overcoming hunger and poverty and ensuring steady livelihoods that can provide a just and dignified way of life thereby making them food secured.

Every country, every region strives for nothing but sustainable peace, development, and progress for its people. Prerequisite to this is the realization of a food secured and healthy citizens who can in turn help in advancing the economy of the state.

Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life (FAO, 1996).

Secure access to food produces wide range of positive impacts that include economic growth and job creation, poverty reduction, trade opportunities, increased global security and stability, and improved health and healthcare among other (USDA).

However, the road to realizing the state of food security in the world and in every country is considered painstaking as it requires time, concerted efforts, commitment, and investment in all forms not just from the government but from the public and all stakeholders.

Looking at the Strategic Review on Food Security and Nutrition in the Philippines, hunger remained high especially among those in the first two income deciles, and malnutrition continues to persist and even worsened in recent years despite the country’s sustained economic improvement. Consequently, it is also stated that the country missed the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) target of decreasing childhood malnutrition by at least 50% in 2015. Additionally, among children 0-5 years, prevalence of stunting has fallen albeit quite slowly since the 1990s and has disturbingly risen by 3.2 percentage points over the period 2013-2015. More than 3.7 million or 33.4 percent of the 11.2 million children aged 0-5 years in 2015 are stunted.

In the case of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), the poverty incidence among individuals in 2018 increased and was estimated at 61.3 percent compared with poverty incidence recorded in 2015 at 53.7 percent (PSA-BARMM). This means that six out of 10 Bangsamoro lives below the poverty threshold that can have impact on every child’s health and education. The risk of poor health is more predominant among people living in poverty.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, 31.4 percent of children belong to poor families in 2015. Hence, attention must be focused to look after their needs, health, education, living conditions, and welfare and development. As emphasized in the Philippine Nutrition Facts and Figures 2013: Anthropometric Survey, undernutrition among pre-school children (0-5.0 years old) is still a public health concern, particularly underweight and stunting which remained high in magnitude and severity based on World Health Organization cut-off points. This situation intensifies in major regions like the BARMM.

Malnutrition, especially among children, is strongly linked with higher rates of disease and premature death. It also has adverse effects on crucial stages of child development, leading to cognitive and behavioral deficits, learning disability, and ultimately to an uncompetitive workforce, as elaborated in the Food Security and Nutrition in the Philippines Strategic Review.

Food insecurity and malnutrition represent serious impediments to sustainable development, poverty reduction, equity and achievement of the development goals. Food security is a key factor in good nutrition, together with health, sanitation and care practices that are all prerequisites to progress in a certain region.

The BARMM is now almost a year in its solid advocacy for moral governance. Its struggle to implement this prioritizes the improvement of the lives of its constituents by bringing the government closer to the communities through the delivery of the needed assistance and services direct to the people.

For the past decades, the Bangsamoro has been beset by recurring and increasing cases of poverty and malnutrition and this calls for aggressive, efficient, and effective convergence among government agencies and institutions for feasible, viable, and sustainable realization of a self-reliant, food-secure, and resilient Bangsamoro. Hence, this BARMM Food Security and Nutrition (FSN) roadmap is a need and will serve as main foundation.