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Speculating hunger

Manila, Philippines – DURING the last week of January, the Social Weather Stations came out with the findings of a poverty and hunger survey they conducted from Dec. 3-7, 2011.

As a result, most of the nation’s broadsheets came out with this headline: “Poverty down, hunger up ­ SWS.“

Some national newspapers focused on the perceived hunger of Filipinos around this time, saying “22.5 percent of respondents (about 4.5 million families) experienced having nothing to eat.“

Others zeroed in on the poverty incidence and said “The SWS survey showed that the number of families who consider themselves poor fell from 52 percent (est. 10.4 million Filipinos) to 45 percent (9.1 million Filipinos). About 36 percent (est. 7.2 million Filipinos) considered themselves food-poor, which is a five-point improvement from 41 percent (est. 8.2 million) in September.“

The average Filipino could be poised to ask: What does the latest SWS survey really reveal? What do the figures really say? How can there be less poverty when there are more who are hungry?

Well, I must say that at first glance, the data sounds a bit contradictory and confusing. Until you stop yourself and say, `Wait a minute, this is basically a perception survey. How Filipinos regard their being poor and their being hungry.“

Okay, so this means, the numbers do not necessarily correspond to ACTUAL Filipinos who are hungry and poor. It’s more about the self-image of Pinoys vis-à-vis poverty and hunger. So, why the succeeding dire paragraphs that tend to picture a very desolate economic landscape for the actual poor in this country?

It was the great American novelist Mark Twain who said: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.“

We in the media, especially those in the community media, have to take Mr. Twain’s quip to heart when talking about issues as serious as poverty and hunger. We must take pains to be more circumspect and careful about our information.

The last thing we need is a nation of Filipinos who have lost their will to hope, aspire, and to move forward because we have filled their minds with doubt and negativity. Stick to the facts, guys. Just for once, stick to the facts.