Poor, elderly Pinoys suffer the most from food imbalance caused by climate change

(Photo by Matthiaszomer/Pexels)

Poor Filipino households and nutritionally vulnerable population groups face food and nutrition insecurity, particularly after natural disasters.

This is according to a policy statement of the Department of Science and Technology-Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI) on “Climate shocks, calamities, exact human collateral damage, food and nutrition security threatened.”

The Philippines receives an overdose of natural calamities, like destructive typhoons, devastating and lingering floods, landslides, and earthquakes, as reported by the Asian Disaster Reduction Center.

Climate change caused by environmental destruction and unchecked industrial expansion worsen the magnitude of calamities and erratic weather patterns. These elevate climate change as an emerging concern on the nutrition and health agenda of the country.

As a result, food security is jeopardized at both the macro- and household levels, first with a disrupted food system, and eventually, intermittent availability of food on the table.

The 2017 Acuin study revealed a significant difference in nutritional status between individuals when grouped by age. According to the study, exposure to calamities of the younger age group, specifically children and teenage pregnant women, did not predict poor nutritional status. However, the elderly, who were poorly educated, unemployed, with poor wealth status, and who experienced several bouts of calamities before the study, were more likely to be underweight and iodine deficient.

Additionally, studies conducted by Duante in 2015 and 2017 revealed that households with higher educational attainment, higher participation in household food production programs, and smaller family sizes were less likely to suffer from hunger.

On the other hand, households engaged in agriculture showed no effect of climate shocks measured by temperature and precipitation on household food consumption. However, with a simulated decrease in rainfall of 20 to 10%, household food consumption decreased. Moreover, increased rainfall tended to increase the incidence of illness among children with nutritional deficiencies, according to a study by Talavera in 2018.

Related to this, the DOST-FNRI believes that there is something that can be done to prevent hunger and malnutrition, and other problems caused by climate change. The Institute recommends that climate change initiatives be localized with considerations for the vulnerability of specific population groups, such as the elderly and those living in ecological zones with increased precipitation.

National climate change initiatives should be translated into local actionable points, and that these be monitored and evaluated, the DOST-FNRI also recommended.

Further, DOST-FNRI believes that localization of climate mitigation efforts is commendable and that much of what is being done at the top level remains tentative.

The resilience of vulnerable households and population groups are mere pluses in the climate change equation, but urgency and solid action need to be factored in now, the DOST-FNRI concluded. (Story courtesy of DOST-FNRI)