"In the end, right-wing lawmakers understood that hunger is not a political issue but a humanitarian question."
Argentina’s Lower House approved on Thursday, by 222 votes in favor and just one abstention, the Food and Nutrition Emergency (EAN) bill, which establishes at least a 50 percent increase in the national budget for public food programs in socially vulnerable areas.
Presented by the opposition to mitigate the social consequences of devaluation and high inflation, the EAN bill extends until December 31, 2022 the national food emergency that was decreed in 2002 after the freezing of bank accounts, an event which forced authorities to create the National Food and Nutrition Program.
The Lower House decision was preceded by mass demonstrations in Buenos Aires, which were held for four days in a row, despite the fact that President Mauricio Macri tried to contain the demonstrations through the use of police force.
Agustin Rossi, a lawmaker from the "Front for Victory" opposition party explained that the magnitude of the crisis forced right-wing politicians to approve a new food emergency extension.
"In the end, they understood that hunger is not a political or electoral issue but a humanitarian question."
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While the EAN bill has yet to be approved by the Argentinian Senate, Leonardo Grosso, the Evita Movement block leader, defended the measure but also questioned the delay of the decision-making process.
“Any public policy to fight hunger is a measure we deliver late. We are being late because there are already people who do not eat,” Grosso said.
Argentinian economic growth has stalled sharply since last year, while inflation is far outstripping salaries, leading to a sharp uptick in poverty.
The National Institute of Statistics and Census (Indec) forecasts that food prices will increase by 80 percent next December, when at least 1 out of every 10 Argentinians will be going through extreme poverty and homelessness. At the beginning of 2019, there was already 14.3 million people living in poverty.
"The situation is getting worse and worse. At the beginning, only children attended dining rooms for the poor. Now there are also parents who have lost their jobs," Monica Diaz, a woman who coordinates 23 social soup kitchens at Lomas de Zamora, in Buenos Aires, said.