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Friday, November 16, 2007

Philippines: where poverty still kills

MANILA (AFP) - A girl aged 11 hanged herself in a Philippines shanty after leaving a letter and diary depicting a life in rampant poverty, newspapers here reported Thursday.

The case put a human face to poverty blighting the nation, where nearly 14 percent of the 87 million population live on less than a dollar a day even as the government says the economy is on a roll.

"I suspect she did it because of our situation," the girl's father, Isabelo Amper, was quoted in the Philippine Daily Inquirer as saying.

In a letter found under her pillow after Mariannet Amper's death, she said she only wished for a bicycle, bag, new shoes and jobs for her parents so she could finish primary school.

"I just want to finish studying and to buy a bicycle," she wrote in the letter, which was addressed to a television programme that grants wishes to viewers.

An accompanying diary revealed the girl, whose family live in a shanty that has no running water or electricity, felt she had been absent from school for more than a month.


In one entry, she wrote: "We weren't able to go to church because we didn't have any money for transport and my father had a fever so my mother and I had to wash clothes for money."

The night before she killed herself, according to reports, she asked her father for 100 pesos (about two dollars) for a school project, but he did not have any money.

Her father said he had been out of a job for several months while his wife works part-time at a noodle factory, earning less than a dollar a day.

The story was reported on the day President Gloria Arroyo told a business forum that her economic reforms were bearing fruit.

"The common people are now feeling the benefits of a growing economy," she said, releasing one billion pesos to boost "hunger mitigation programmes."

However, the respected Social Weather Stations (SWS) institute found in a recent survey about nine million Filipino families rate themselves poor, the majority of whom live in the southern Philippines.

Many of those also experienced "severe hunger" in the past three months, it said.

Anti-poverty coalition the Global Call for Action Against Poverty said its own studies showed the nation's economic growth was not trickling down to the ordinary people, and urged the government to do more.


Yahoo News
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