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Filipino children suffer from multiple dimensions of poverty

Manila, Philippines, 16 September 2010—In a new study launched today, the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) and UNICEF revealed that in 2006, 44% of all Filipino children are living in poverty, equal to 12.8 million children under the age of 15.  This figure increased by almost 4 percentage points from that of 2003, with said increase equivalent to approximately one million additional poor children.

The study also reveals that the situation becomes more disturbing due to the fact that children do not only suffer from income poverty but also from various other dimensions of poverty such as deprivations in terms of food, shelter, health, education, water, sanitation facilities, electricity and information. The study not only presents the child poverty situation in terms of the income-based measure but also probes deeper into other dimensions of child deprivation, providing a more comprehensive picture of the multiple dimensions of poverty suffered by children. With this, the study hopes to emphasize the urgency of actions to promote overall development of children.

As PIDS President, Dr. Josef T. Yap, emphasizes:

“Because children are most vulnerable, meeting their needs and helping them achieve their full potential is promoting human development and investing in the progress of mankind.”
 
Meanwhile, UNICEF representative, Ms. Vanessa Tobin, speaking at the launch, said: “This study is a wake-up call for all those in the Philippines who care about achieving the MDGs, and reducing poverty for children. We can no longer look at the national picture, and be blind to the millions of children, often hidden and hard to reach, who are suffering multiple deprivations. UNICEF is keen to support a targeted, focused approach to ensure we achieve MDG1 by lifting these children out of poverty, and in so doing, we help all Filipinos in building a country fit for all children.”

The study shows large disparities across regions in the country. The national estimate does not truly reflect what is happening in the regions. For instance, the study shows that the income-poor people are concentrated in the Visayas, Bicol and CALABARZON regions. In particular, the number of poor children in Bicol is about six-folds the number in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR). Poverty is also more concentrated in the rural areas, with 9.2 million of the 12.8 million children living in poverty in 2006 found in the rural areas. 

This study coincides with another report, Progress for Children: Achieving the MDGs with Equity, published by UNICEF last week. The study shows that reducing poverty for children (Millennium Development Goal 1) can be reached faster by focusing on the most disadvantaged groups.

“This new UNICEF report shows that contrary to traditional thinking that suggested focusing on the poorest was not cost-effective, an equity-focused strategy will yield not only a morally right approach but one that is effective in reducing national poverty rates,” Tobin said.

The key findings of this UNICEF report include:

· An equity-focused approach improves returns on investment, averting more child and maternal deaths and episodes of stunting than the alternative.
· Using the equity approach, US $1 million investment in reducing under-five deaths in a low-income, high-mortality country would avert an estimated 60% more deaths than the current approach.
· Because national burdens of disease, ill health and illiteracy are concentrated in the most impoverished child populations, providing these children with essential services can greatly accelerate progress towards the MDGs and reduce disparities within nations.

Agenda for action

In the joint PIDS and UNICEF study, although it also indicated that some progress has been made in certain areas such as improvements in child survival indicators and in the proportion of children deprived of electricity and access to communication, water and sanitary facilities, it nevertheless noted that a lot still need to be done, especially in the areas of education and maternal mortality. A roadmap for poverty reduction, in particular for the alleviation of the children’s plight, therefore has to be crafted.

To help do this, PIDS and UNICEF are stressing two major actions based on the key results of their joint child poverty study:
· There need to be more focused interventions, taking into account the regional disparities and particularly focused on the poorest, most vulnerable children in the Philippines.
· There should be a well-designed, well-targeted and sustainable social protection system, not just ad hoc temporary assistance, to mitigate the impact of both crises and calamities on the poorest families, especially children.

 

 
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