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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