Children’s Month: Kahirapan Wakasan, Karapatan ng Bata Ipaglaban
October is National Children’s Month and in its 21st year celebration the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) – a focal inter-agency body of government, including the Department of Health, mandated to coordinate the implementation and enforcement of all laws; formulate, monitor and evaluate policies, programs and measures for children – focuses on poverty with the theme “KahirapanWakasan, Karapatanng Bata Ipaglaban.”
The World Bank defines poverty as pronounced deprivation in well-being, and comprises many dimensions. It includes low incomes and the inability to acquire basic goods and services necessary for survival with dignity. Poverty also encompasses low levels of health and education, poor access to clean water and sanitation, inadequate physical security, lack of voice, and insufficient capacity and opportunity to better one’s life.
Child poverty is different from adult poverty because it has multiple dimensions. Child poverty is more than income poverty and manifests itself in deprivations that have consequences on a child’s overall well-being and development. The three main determinants of child poverty are: 1) children living in poor households; 2) deprivations of basic amenities such as electricity, potable water and sanitary toilet facilities; and 3) a child development index which is a composite of health, education, and quality of life indicators.
The Global Study on Child Poverty and Disparities by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) describes child poverty as an outcome of deprivation in the family, thus, as poverty incidence in families rise, more and more children are deprived of their basic needs and are pushed to join the labor force at an early age, becoming exposed to exploitation and abuse. Deprivation of basic needs because of poverty affects the growth and development of the child.
According to the 2009 Official Poverty Statistics in the Philippines by the National Statistical Coordination Board, children came in third to fisherfolks and farmers among the nine basic sectors with high poverty incidence. (The other sectors are: self-employed with unpaid family members; workers; women; youth; migrant and formal sector; senior citizens; and individuals residing in urban areas.) For the basic sectors, poverty incidence for children is higher at 35.1% in 2009 from 34.8% in 2006, higher than the poverty incidence among the population in the Philippines at 26.5% in 2009. Poverty incidence for children residing in urban areas increased between 2006 and 2009, with 0.3 percentage point increases.
The 2009 statistics revealed a Filipino family of five needed Php 4,869 monthly income to meet the basic food needs and Php 7,017 to stay out of poverty. The magnitude of poor population increased by almost 970,000 Filipinos from 22.2 million in 2006 to 23.1 imillion n 2009. CARAGA, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and the Zamboanga Peninsula (Region IX) posted the highest poverty incidence among families.
There has been some progress though in areas of child health, particularly in the provision of expanded program on immunization and micronutrient supplementation, and the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding. A joint study by UNICEF and Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) noted that aside from child survival interventions, some progress has been made in the proportion of children deprived of electricity and access to communication, and water and sanitary facilities. Nevertheless, the study also noted that a lot still needs 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.
Data on Philippine education show all three indicators on children under the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 2, i.e. net enrolment ratio in primary education, proportion of pupils starting Grade 1 who reach Grade 6, and primary completion rate, show low probabilities of achieving their target by 2015. Likewise, reducing maternal and neonatal mortality in the Philippines or MDG 5 remains a key development challenge.
One program in the anti-poverty strategy of government is the PantawidPamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) which attack the root causes of poverty – weak education, health and other human development characteristics that disadvantage a poor person. One of its key interventions is the provision of conditional cash transfers (CCTs) to mothers, as long as they commit to investing in their children, such as by ensuring their children go to school, get health services and others. The target beneficiaries are those who are considered to be the poorest of the poor. The receipt of cash is based upon the behavior of recipients. In effect, CCTs are designed to discipline parents in assuming direct responsibility for the welfare of their children. The 4Ps now operates in 79 provinces covering 1,484 municipalities and 143 key cities in all 17 regions nationwide.
As of June 2013, the program covered almost 4 million households. The planned extension of the 4Ps will include an additional 2 million children to the current 8.5 million in the program. A special emphasis will be placed on providing additional support to children from poor families who would like to go to high school. By 2015, a quarter of the population is expected to be beneficiaries, including new categories for coverage such as abandoned children, the disabled, and those displaced by calamities or conflict.
Despite criticisms that the billions invested in the 4Ps which could have been better spent on job creation, no other social protection program in Philippine history has ever reached a wide scale and has improved school attendance and health care coverage. The 4Ps can help ensure that the majority of children will grow up to be educated, healthy, and productive members of Philippine society, contributing to the country’s economic competitiveness in the longer term. .
Poverty reduction starts with children. A roadmap for poverty reduction, in particular for the alleviation of the children’s plight, therefore has to be crafted and implemented. Just as what an old adage says, “it takes a tribe to raise a child,” everyone has a stake in contributing to poverty reduction and advocating for stronger holistic actions, particularly preventive measures to address the problems on poverty.
Published in: Issue No. 78, September – October 2013
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Letter to the Editor
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