Posts

Hunger in PakistanPakistan is a country that has been the victim of natural disasters and chronic political and economic turmoil. These volatile conditions have led to high rates of poverty and hunger in the country. Here are five things to know about hunger in Pakistan.

Five Things to Know About Hunger in Pakistan

  1. In Pakistan, about 20% of the population is undernourished. This equates to nearly 40 million people who are not getting enough nutrients on a daily basis. This is nearly double the percentage of people worldwide who are undernourished.
  2. Poverty and food insecurity are inextricably linked. Nearly a quarter of Pakistanis live below the poverty line. In 2019, natural disasters like drought and heavy rainfall in Pakistan affected the livelihood of millions of people. In mid-2019, a drought caused acute food insecurity in the populations of seven districts, over one million people.
  3. As high as 40% of the population lives in multidimensional poverty. While 25% of Pakistanis live below the poverty line, multi-dimensional poverty takes into consideration a variety of factors beyond just a person’s income. It considers access to clean water, electricity and basic healthcare needs as well as poor infrastructure. All of these factors can impact a community’s access to food.
  4. Undernutrition and malnutrition have led to stunting in 38% of Pakistani children under the age of five. In some regions, the percentage of children who experience stunting is nearly 50%. Pakistani children experience some of the highest stunting rates in the world.
  5. Pakistan actually has a surplus of food. However, instead of being distributed to its own people, much of this food is exported. From mid-2018 to mid-2019, around a half million tons of wheat and more than seven million tons of rice were exported from Pakistan. One in five Pakistani’s are not malnourished because there is a lack of food availability, but because of socio-economic factors that prevent them from accessing the country’s abundant resources. However, even if Pakistani’s had more access to the wheat and rice resources of their country, these crops alone cannot provide a nutritious and sustainable diet.

What is Being Done

In Pakistan, there are several community-driven efforts to fight hunger and, more specifically, stunting. These groups have been able to provide nutrient supplements to more than 700,000 Pakistanis experiencing undernutrition or malnutrition.

In 2020, the Food for Peace (FFP) program, a division of USAID, has provided $2 million to UNICEF for nutrition services for children under the age of five who experience severe acute malnutrition in Pakistan. This number is much less than in previous years. In 2019, FFP provided $18 million to UNICEF and in 2018, the figure was more than $21 million.

In 2018, the Pakistani government pledged to achieve self-sufficiency in food and set a goal of eliminating hunger in the country by 2030. To achieve this goal, the government has put an emphasis on crop diversification, water management and “climate-smart” farming to reduce the catastrophic impacts of natural disasters on food security.

Pakistan is a country that has experienced political and economic turmoil for decades. These conditions coupled with the impacts of natural disasters have made undernutrition and malnutrition a huge concern in the country. While over the past several years the country has implemented initiatives to improve the food situation, the challenges surrounding food security remain and hunger in Pakistan remain a major issue.

– Jessie Cohen
Photo: Pixaby

Top 10 Facts about Hunger in Pakistan
Pakistan may have South Asia’s second-largest economy but it fares considerably worse than its neighbors when it comes to tackling hunger. Here are the top 10 facts about hunger in Pakistan.

Top 10 Facts about Hunger in Pakistan

  1. Out of the total of 113 countries in the Global Food Security Index of 2016, Pakistan ranked 78th. The country scored 47.8, lagging behind longtime rival India and several other African countries.
  2. According to the World Food Programme, 43 percent of Pakistan’s population faces food insecurity. Of this number, 18 percent of people in Pakistan severely lack access to food. This is linked to the fact that most of these people are heavily dependent on agriculture for a living.
  3. Pakistan has one of the most malnourished and poorest regions in the world. which is Tharparkar region in the Sindh province. Most of the region is desert land, with the majority of inhabitants depending on seasonal rainfall.
  4. In the province of Sindh, 50 percent of children below 5 years old are stunted and 19 percent are severely malnourished. The region’s intense food insecurity stems from lack of investment in the infrastructure and population coupled with the flood that hit Sindh especially hard.
  5. Pakistan ranked 106 out of 119 countries on the Global Hunger Index (GHI) with a score of 32.6, second only to Afghanistan in the region. The GHI is calculated according to four primary indicators: the proportion of the malnourished population, the frequency of child mortality, stuntedness of children and height to weight ratios of children.
  6. Agriculture in Pakistan is riddled with corruption. In September 2009, the government announced the “Benazir Tractor Scheme”. It was presented to the masses as a random computerized lottery that would award tractors to randomly selected small-scale farmers across the country. However, it turned out that the winners had suspiciously already had large acres of land and some were even related to the parliamentarians.
  7. Most of the budget is spent on issues of national security, rather than fighting hunger. Islamabad devoted $2 billion to security expenditures at a time when many poor Pakistanis were suffering the effects of sky-high inflation.
  8. The number of malnourished Pakistanis has increased since the early 1990s from 24 million to 45 million in 2008. Most of the population is suspected to be extremely lacking both Vitamin A and Vitamin D consumption due to fish, egg yolk and cod liver being in short supply.
  9.  Pakistan has also been heavily dependent on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, that have demanded from the country to cut back on public spending in the 1980s, which affected food subsidies.
  10. There is an organization called Action Against Hunger that is working to fight food insecurity in Pakistan by addressing malnutrition and mitigating the effects and causes of hunger. They ran the Woman and Infant/Child Improved Nutrition in Sindh in 2017 as well as operating outpatient therapeutic programs in Daud, Khairpir, Matiari and Ghotki districts.

Pakistan does have a long way to go before fully addressing the extent of the problem but it certainly has the impetus and ability to change the way it prioritizes food insecurity and hunger.

– Maneesha Khalae
Photo: Flickr

Last month, a new and improved version of the Pakistani National Food Security Policy was approved by the federal cabinet after years of development by the Ministry of National Food Security and Research. This is welcome news, as 60 percent of the population lacks food security in Pakistan. The new policy is already in the beginning stages of implementation throughout the country, and its goals are ambitious.

The ultimate objective of the new Pakistani National Food Security Policy is to raise the agriculture growth rate to 4 percent per year. Though 4 percent may seem like a minuscule number, it will be no small feat for the Pakistani government to accomplish. The agriculture growth rate has been relatively low over the past decade, averaging about 2.5 percent since 2008. Increasing that number will require a lot of changes to be made.

One issue brought up in the Pakistani National Food Security Policy is the lack of modern technology in the agriculture sector. According to the report, Pakistani farmers do not have access to machinery such as rice transplanters, vegetable planters, fruit pickers and other useful tools that would allow them to run their farms more efficiently and turn larger profits. To mitigate this problem, the new policy will reduce taxes on imports of farm machinery and create incentives for farmers willing to adopt newer technologies.

Another obstacle farmers are having to face is the increasing effects of climate change. Factors like drought and extreme weather fluctuations can have devastating impacts on crops and livestock and leave farmers with nothing to produce. One of the ways the Pakistani National Food Security Policy will attempt to alleviate the effects of this crisis is by investing in biotechnology and the genetic alteration of seeds to better resist drought and temperature changes. The policy will also promote crop insurance schemes and educate the public on which crops are more likely to survive in certain areas.

In addition, the new policy recognizes that many of the resources in Pakistan are not being utilized to their fullest potential. The country’s biggest crop is wheat, which is grown on 40 percent of Pakistan’s land and makes up more than 2 percent of the GDP by itself. However, there has been a global decline in wheat prices over the last few years and the government is thinking twice about having its entire economy rely on the success of one crop. Consequently, the Pakistani National Food Security Policy aims to focus more on cultivating fruits, vegetables, livestock, poultry and fisheries in the future.

Lastly, the policy addresses how unaffordable it has become for Pakistanis to purchase nutritious food. In response to this problem, the government hopes to devote more energy to continuing and creating programs dedicated to reducing poverty and hunger on the local level. Along with the strategies mentioned above to increase profits for farmers, this should be a great help with increasing food security in Pakistan.

It goes without saying that the Pakistani National Food Security Policy is an incredibly bold vision for the country, and it will require a lot of effort on the part of both farmers and the government. However, the fact that Pakistan is actively taking steps to eradicate food insecurity is a sign of hope for its millions of hungry citizens, and such a high goal may be exactly what the country needs.

– Maddi Roy

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Pakistan
Almost a quarter of the population in Pakistan goes to sleep hungry every night according to the latest Global Hunger Index released on Oct. 12, 2016.

While many Pakistani economists and commentators are pleased that the levels of hunger in Pakistan have been downgraded from “alarmist” to “serious,” conditions remain concerning.

The World Food Program estimates that six out of 10 Pakistanis are food insecure and almost half of women and children under 5 years of age are malnourished. The sad part is that food insecurity persists although food production is sufficient to feed all Pakistanis.

The problem stems from wrong priorities in terms of food crops throwing the nutritional balance completely out of kilter. Hunger in Pakistan isn’t as much a result of lack of food as it is of deficiencies in diet ranging from protein to iodine, along with other health problems due to insufficient intake of essential nutrients.

These have serious implications for economic growth and development. Thus, just three types of malnutrition are responsible for a loss of three to four percent of GDP in Pakistan in any given year, according to the United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition (SCN) fifth report on the world nutrition situation.

In human terms, the impact of malnutrition is even more serious and gut-wrenching. Figures obtained from multiple governmental and non-governmental organizations by Pakistan’s newspaper The Express Tribune reveal that around 352,000 children who are under the age of five die every year in the country.

In addition, the country has the highest rate of first-day deaths and stillbirths at 40.7 per 1,000 births. What’s worse, 28,000 mothers die every year during childbirth, show reports prepared by the PDH Survey, the World Health Organization, Save the Children and United Nations’ Children Fund. More than 204,542 children died within the first 28 days, the figures show.

The PDH Survey 2006-07 says that Pakistani children are more likely to die young in rural areas. That’s because one of the major causes for poor nourishment is that women have little access to health services and education and consequently little nutritional knowledge while feeding their children. Of course, large family sizes are another reason for food shortages.

Agriculture is vital to the Pakistani economy since it employs almost half the workforce and contributes over a fifth of GDP. The answer to the chronic hunger in Pakistan then lies in finding a way to modernize the sector and increase productivity as well as improve the choice of crops.

Mallika Khanna

Photo: Flickr