Hontiveros: Slashed DSWD budget will leave at least 200,000 children malnourished

“Mas dumami ang nagugutom ngayong pandemya pero hindi tayo nag-adjust. Parang walang krisis. 200,000 na bata ang hindi makakatanggap ng sapat na nutrisyon kung hindi natin pagbibigyan ang budget request ng Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).”

This was the remark of Senator Risa Hontiveros as she urged the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to increase the funds of DSWD to cover the nutrition of the additional 200,000 children projected to be included in its national feeding program, under RA No. 11037 or the Masustansyang Pagkain Para sa Batang Pilipino Act of 2018.

She cited data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) that unemployment numbers hit 7.3 million in June and will likely continue to rise.

The DSWD requested an additional 1.36 billion for the feeding program, the senator said, but it was not approved by the DBM.

“Nakakalungkot man, asahan natin na aakyat pa ang mga numero na ito. Pag marami ang walang trabaho, marami rin ang magugutom. We have to adjust the budget accordingly,” she said.

Hontiveros questioned why the DSWD budget for the feeding program had remained unchanged from 2020 despite the number of projected children who need to be covered increasing by 200,000.

She also highlighted that the DSWD only met 87.93% of its target in 2019. “I want to understand the logic behind this. Hindi nga natin ma-meet yung 100% target natin, pero hindi natin bibigyan ng sapat na pondo ngayong dumami ang nangangailangang bata? Will we allow more children to be malnourished or will we compromise the quality of the nutrition we provide? Talo tayo kahit anuman ang sagot,” Hontiveros asked.

Hontiveros said that UNICEF, as of August 2020, reported that a third of Filipino children are stunted, making the Philippines one of 10 countries with the highest number of stunted children in the world despite economic growth.

“Ngayong pandemya, mas kailangan tayo ng mga batang Pilipino. Wag natin sila isantabi,” she said.

“Sa mga nagdaang krisis, dumadami ang bilang ng mga kababaihan, pati na mga nanay ang kinakailangang magtrabaho sa labas ng bahay para kahit paano ay makabawi sa nawalang kita ng pamilya. Yang day care centers at feeding program po siguro ay susing programa upang matulungan ang mga nanay,” she said.

“Mas marami ang mangangailangan. Dapat handa tayong tulungan sila, o libo-libo na namang Pilipino ang maiiwanan,” Hontiveros concluded.