Pakistan 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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