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MANILA, Philippines -- The number of Filipino families who have gone hungry reached a new high in the first quarter of this year, the results of a new Social Weather Stations survey showed.
In the survey, conducted from March 10 to 13, 4.8 million families, or 23.8 percent of respondents, reported experiencing involuntary hunger at least once in the past three months, up from the 4.5 million families, or 22.5 percent, recorded in December 2011.
This was also the highest percentage of families who said they have gone hungry, surpassing the December 2008 peak of 23.7 percent.
An earlier SWS survey also found 11.1 million families rating themselves as poor in the first quarter of this year.
SWS measures hunger in terms of "involuntary suffering due to lack of anything to eat."
It categorizes those who have experienced hunger "only once" or "a few times" as “moderate” hunger. Severe hunger refers to those who have experienced hunger "often" or "always."
Moderate hunger saw a 0.3-point increase from 17.7 percent (3.6 million families) last December to 18 percent (3.7 million families) in March.
Severe hunger, on the other hand, increased by 1.1-point to a "record-high" 5.8 percent, or 1.2 million families. This was higher than December 2011's 4.7 percent or 955,000 families.
Across geographical areas, overall hunger increased everywhere except in the Visayas, which saw a decline of 14.7 points to just 10.3 percent, or almost 400,000 families. Moderate hunger and severe hunger also fell in the central Philippine region.
But families who suffered involuntary hunger rose to 26.7 percent in Mindanao, or 1.3 million. The percentage also rose 2.3 points in Metro Manila, representing 691,000 families.
Severe hunger rose by three points in Metro Manila and in Mindanao.
The SWS said it found claims about poverty in general, as well as being food-poor and being hungry were "internally consistent.”
Hunger was at 32.4 percent among the self-rated poor, more than twice than among those who said they were not poor.
Similarly, 37.3 percent of the self-rated food poor claimed to have experienced hunger in the first quarter, almost triple those who said they were not food-poor.
The latest SWS survey was conducted among 1,200 respondents nationwide using face-to-face interviews.
The error margins are +/-3% for national and +/-6% for area percentages. Results of the survey were first published in BusinessWorld on Tuesday.