According to the 2022 Global Hunger Index, the country of Pakistan ranks 99 out of 121 countries. With hunger in Pakistan’s score at 26.1 out of 50 on the index, the issue in the country is ranked as “serious.” The problem itself is due to a combination of factors. One is the devastating 2022 summer floods. A second is the current economic crises that are severely affecting the Pakistani government’s ability to manage food scarcity.
Hunger and Food Insecurity Across the Population
Almost 17% of Pakistan’s population is undernourished. Children are among the most greatly affected. Almost 40% of children under five suffer from “stunting” or have low height for their age due to undernourishment. “Child wasting” affects seven percent of children under five. This means that they are below the average weight for their age because of severe undernourishment. Finally, child mortality (children who die before age five) is a startling 6.5%.
According to the World Food Programme (WFP), a survey from 2018 showed that 36.9% of the population faces food insecurity. Women are especially at risk as among the most vulnerable and economically challenged portion of the population. Moreover, due to cultural and social taboos, many women find it difficult to access humanitarian services and aid. In addition, the World Food Programme found a direct link between girls’ level of education and all forms of undernutrition.
Flooding and Hunger
The devastating floods of the summer of 2022 further destabilized Pakistan’s rising inflation and poor economic situation. Pakistani government officials stated that the floods destroyed almost 80% of crops. This staggering number has major ramifications for a country where an average household spends around 50% of its income on food. Also, the State Bank of Pakistan proclaimed that foreign reserves fell to $4.3 billion. That is barely enough to buy three weeks of imports. Finally, even with pledges of $10 billion from the international community to help Pakistan’s recovery, supply chain shortages in everything from medical supplies to soybeans keep prices high and the people suffering.
Wheat is a staple food in the diet of an average Pakistani. The prices of wheat have skyrocketed, partly because of a decrease in wheat from Ukraine due to the war there. Wheat and flour are so scarce in some parts of Pakistan that armed police have to guard distribution trucks. At one point, desperation led people to stampede the trucks and the stampede led to the death of a person. Furthermore, food prices in the country rose almost 36% in December 2022, compared to 31% in November.
Support from Humanitarian Organizations
To combat these difficult challenges, organizations that fight hunger such as Action Against Hunger and Islamic Relief are comprehensively tackling hunger in Pakistan. In the province of Sindh, Action Against Hunger promotes kitchen gardening and supports farmers to grow crops that are resistant to changing weather patterns. The organization also provides communities with knowledge and information on new techniques to grow vegetables. Finally, it provides households with young children with goats and poultry. Action Against Hunger aid reached more than 2 million people last year.
Islamic Relief supported more than 1 million people in the aftermath of the floods. It provided communities with 40,000 liters of daily clean drinking water, 123 water tanks, 11,667 food packs and 7476 winter kits.
The challenges are very much present, but organizations are working alongside the government to implement new initiatives to eliminate hunger in Pakistan.
– Saad Ul Haque