May 29, 2023

Alarming food insecurity engulfs Pakistan

Street Fruit Vendor, Wazirabad Pakistan. Photo by Adam Cohn

The Global Hunger Index 2021 ranked Pakistan 96 out of 116 countries in the world. With a score of 24.7, Pakistan’s hunger level is deemed “serious”. 

Balochistan and Sindh are the two provinces with highest food insecurity, malnutrition, and poverty. During 2020, the population of the country, especially these two provinces, faced a number of shocks including inflation, locust outbreaks, soaring food prices, and above all, covid-19. 

As per the IPC Acute food Security Analysis, around 3.8 million (around 26% of population) are estimated to face acute food shortage in Balochistan and Sindh. The survey was conducted during from March to June 2021. 

In 2019, USAID and UN World Food Program stated that “over 20% of Pakistan’s population is undernourished, and almost 45% of children younger than five years of age are stunted.” Meanwhile, the number for the coming decade isn’t promising either. 

According to a report by International Food Security Assessment by US Department of Agriculture, the decade from 2021-31 can be very crucial for the country. During this decade “a total of 38 percent of the population of Pakistan is going to be food insecure.”

Another survey by World Food Program in 2021 shows that “around 82 per cent of children in Pakistan have been deprived of a meal when they need one, and has the second-highest rate of malnutrition in the region.” 

And as per Pakistan Bureau of Statistic, 16% of the population was experiencing moderate of severe food insecurity in 2021. 

Experts maintain that just like the past decade, the upcoming decade doesn’t herald much hope for the country on the food security front. 

After holding the office in 2018, former Prime Minister Imran Khan spoke about malnutrition and stunt issue in children during his first address to the nation. His government also launched a development project called ‘Tackling Malnutrition Induced Stunting in Pakistan’ with a total cost of Rs. 350 billion for duration of five years (2021-2025). 

As per a statement: “This project will target 30% of the total population of country with 15 million women of reproductive age group and 3.9 million children under the age of 2 years through nutrition interventions.” However, after the toppling of the government, the status of this project hangs in the balance. 

Speaking on the ramification of food insecurity former senior vice president Lahore Chamber Meher Kashir Younus said: “Recently Pakistan’s double-digit food price inflation, along with dwindling income, has left more Pakistanis food insecure.” 

He added that in recent years the country has produced more food than its population consumers, however, the poor segment of the society and most vulnerable people in the country cannot afford a nutritious diet. And the reason, he insisted, is “limited economic access to the poorest especially women lacking an adequate and diverse diet.” 

Experts maintain that there remains less cause for optimism with regards to food insecurity in the country. And the much-cited reason is that those in power are just not invested in addressing the hunger that is eliminating the poorest strata of the country. 

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