Food insecurity, disrupted education and limited access to healthcare are the topmost concerns of hundreds of Filipino families affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, based on a recent countrywide survey conducted by World Vision in the Philippines.
After the Department of Health (DOH) declared the COVID-19 situation as a national health emergency in March, World Vision, with the help of its partners, sponsors and volunteers, immediately mobilized its emergency response to assist vulnerable families and communities and to strengthen the capacity of the health providers, especially on the frontlines.
“As the battle against COVID-19 pandemic continues, it is crucial to support, inform and give hope to those who are greatly affected,” World Vision National Director Rommel V. Fuerte shared.
As part of its response, World Vision conducted a rapid assessment in its 20 served provinces nationwide, covering 985 respondents from 42 municipalities and 6 cities. The data and insights collected became part of the basis for its strategic humanitarian plan for children and their families to provide appropriate and better assistance.
COVID-19 impact on livelihood and food security
Ninety-two percent of survey respondents confirmed that their livelihood has been disrupted or severely affected by the pandemic. A staggering 71 percent of the respondents lost their jobs, significantly reducing their salaries or income. Most of the respondents seriously affected are daily wage earners.
Food security emerged as a top issue among half of the respondents (51%). Due to prolonged income loss, 68 percent of the households said they are not able to completely meet their food needs, resulting in family members eating fewer than three meals a day.
According to the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), the average Filipino family of six needs at least Php2,200.80 weekly for food. Due to the ongoing pandemic, food expenses of surveyed families have significantly dropped to as low as Php1,184 a week on average during the quarantine period.
To cope with limited means, 24 percent of respondent families have resorted to borrowing money, tapping into savings, and reducing the quantity and quality of their meals. Some have disposed or sold their assets (7%) to provide for their daily needs.
Education during the time of the pandemic
World Vision’s rapid assessment also revealed major concerns about education opportunities and continuity, with 45 percent citing this as a top concern. With face-to-face learning suspended due to the risk of virus transmission, the Department of Education (DepEd) has prescribed the distance or blended learning mode, leaving parents and caregivers worried about how their children will manage lessons.
Among the children surveyed, 89 percent are anticipating problems and challenges in using the online platforms, with 38 percent declaring they have no access to the internet. Among parents, the top concerns regarding distance learning are slow or no internet access (47%), lack of gadgets (33%) and effectiveness of learning through online platforms (20%).
To allay these fears, DepEd has devised alternative solutions to encourage learners to continue their education. Printed modules have been provided and distributed to learners while radio and TV stations are being tapped to broadcast lessons in far-flung areas. Based on the latest enrollment rate, more than 20 percent of learners have not yet registered for the coming school year.
Accessibility of health and sanitation facilities, COVID-19 information
The need to access basic healthcare facilities has drastically grown since the pandemic, with 24 percent of study respondents citing this as a prime concern. Healthcare inaccessibility could result in higher risks of maternal and child morbidity.
Among survey respondents, only about 25 percent were able to meet the healthcare and medical expenses of their household members, including children. Access to essential health services dropped from 89 percent before the pandemic to 63 percent during the global health crisis. Access to community centers, mobile health clinics and maternal centers likewise decreased from 93 percent to 86 percent, 44 percent to 32 percent, and 83 percent to 70 percent, respectively, before and during the pandemic.
Limited access to water and basic sanitation facilities has left families more vulnerable to viruses and other forms of deadly diseases. As local government units (LGUs) implement lockdowns in local barangays, 16 percent of households do not have sufficient water for drinking and cooking while 14 percent have been stripped of access to handwashing facilities. Some 10 percent reported they do not have access to a toilet and 28 percent said they have limited access to hygiene supplies.
The pandemic has also increased the risk of affecting mental health, with 6 percent of households experiencing severe stress. Some parents and caregivers are considering drastic measures to survive income loss — 3 percent said they will send children to work and 2 percent will send children to relatives or institutions. Eighty-four percent of the children are worried for themselves and their families while 54 percent of them have expressed negative emotions such as sadness, fear and worry.
In terms of access to critical COVID-19 information during the time of the survey, 99 percent of the respondents said they have access to information and do not find this a concern. TV is the biggest source of information at 86 percent, followed by social media at 56 percent. Thirty-four percent of the families receive updates through the radio and 27 percent through their family members.
Moving forward with collaboration, advocacy and accountability
In the first three months of its COVID Emergency Response efforts, World Vision focused on these key areas: livelihood, food and security, education, health, child safety and protection. The organization also now looks into helping communities find opportunities for income-generating livelihood and enterprise strengthening, supporting food security interventions, and assisting families in sending children to school.
World Vision will also continue to support medical facilities and proper hygiene practices. It will continue collaborating with the government, other NGOs and other stakeholders to boost child protection measures such as providing psychosocial support through counseling and setting up reliable reporting systems such as hotlines and help desks.
World Vision works with international, national and local groups such as the United Nations, the National Disaster Risk and Management Council led by the Office of Civil Defense, the Department of Health, DepEd, faith-based organizations, child-focused groups and the private sector.
“We are humbled by the support from our partners to the advocacies that promote the welfare of the most vulnerable children. Working together, we can overcome these very challenging times. By God’s grace, we will continue to reach out to the children and their families and the frontliners to help them overcome these struggles.” Fuerte quipped.
To learn more about the Rapid Assessment study and other World Vision’s programs in the Philippines, visit worldvision.org.ph.