According to the most recent National Nutrition Survey conducted in Pakistan, approximately 60 percent of the country’s population is facing food insecurity. Of these households, 50 percent of the women and children were found to be malnourished. The growing population in Pakistan poses a significant threat to food security, yet little attention has been devoted to studying the country’s large population numbers and their impact on Pakistan’s development and stability. Perhaps numbers such as these are the reason why more focus is now being placed on the country’s population and its relationship to food security.
According to The Nation, the Population Association of Pakistan (PAP) held its 14th Annual Research Conference on November 20and 21, 2013, during which many problems facing the country were addressed. The theme of the conference was “Pakistan’s Population: New Realities and Challenges for Human Development.”
The country’s food security problems are manifested through the widespread malnutrition experienced by its residents, and these problems were highlighted during the conference by Shahnaz Wazir Ali, President of the Population Association of Pakistan. According to the National Nutrition Survey, stunting (low weight for age), wasting (low weight for age) and micronutrient deficiencies are all major problems in Pakistan.
Another major obstacle in addressing the population problem in Pakistan is poor demographic data. During the conference, Dr. Zeba Sathar, an eminent Pakistani demographer, pointed out that a census has not been conducted in Pakistan since 1998. Although a census has not been conducted in almost a decade, there is information and research evidence that is routinely collected regarding the population. However, this information typically fails to make it into the hands of policy makers.
According to Dr. Sathar, “[w]hat we [Pakistan] need now is that at the federal level, the ministries of planning [and] development and national health services sit together and come up with an overarching, broad and evidence based, strategically focused national population and development policy that outlines guiding principles.”
In response to the information presented at the conference, Minister of State for National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination Saira Afzal Tarar stated it is time to investment in education of Pakistan’s children to meet future challenges, according to the Associated Press of Pakistan. Tarar believes that education and employment are two of the keys to reducing the population in Pakistan. Improvements in these two areas would help reduce the adverse effects on the economy, effects which appear to be related to food security and malnutrition.
Despite the challenges, Pakistan’s leaders are convinced that the country can become a vibrant democracy with a growing economy and a healthy and prosperous population.
– Cavarrio Carter