TAGUM CITY—A Manila-based independent think tank said the number of children living in dire poverty in the country may reach 25 million if the government will use a poverty line of P100 per child per day.

“If the government will only use a more reasonable poverty line of P100 per child per day then the number of children living in poverty jumps to almost 25 million. The government is using a too-low official poverty line of about P52 per child per day,” said Sonny Africa, research head of Ibon Foundation.

This came two days after when the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), a government-owned think tank, released a study entitled “Child Poverty in the Philippines”, disclosing that  there were already about 13.4 million Filipino children living in poverty in 2009.

The study reported that 13.4 million Filipino children represents 36 percent or more than one-third of all Filipino children aged below 18.

“Being poor, they suffer from deprivations of food, shelter, health, and education,` said Dr. Celia Reyes, PIDS senior research fellow and lead author of the study.

It also reported that “around 10 million of these children face at least two overlapping types of severe deprivation in basic amenities while an estimated .75 million face at least five kinds of deprivation simultaneously.”

There were around 4 million children who did not have access to sanitary toilet facilities while 4 million did not have access to safe water. Another 260,000 kids did not have decent shelter, the study said.

“There were 1.4 million children living in informal settlements, 6.5 million did not have access to electricity in their homes, and 3.4 million did not have means to access information,” Reyes said.

According to PIDS, Zamboanga Peninsula, Eastern Visayas, and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) were identified by the study as the regions “where the condition of children is dismal in many aspects and therefore should be prioritized in interventions.”

Reyes said that poverty in the country is largely a rural phenomenon. “The study estimates that three out of four children from income poor families are living in the rural areas. At the same time, eight of 10 who are severely deprived of safe water and sanitary toilet are found in the rural areas.”

But Africa noted that despite the disparity of figures, the numbers won’t lie as it is clear the majority of the Filipino children are living in poverty.

“Whatever number is used it is clear that too many millions of children are facing a lifetime of poverty. The unchanging poverty incidence since at least the mid-2000s until today, while the rich amass even more wealth,” said Africa.

“The figures also underscores the exclusionary growth in the country and the emptiness of government and big business hype about economic gains,” he said. (davaotoday.com)

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