Is Pak really a food insecure country ?

Kashif Shamim Siddiqui

Once, it was well said by Mr. Ban Ki-moon, former Secretary General of United Nations that “Our world is one of the terrible contradictions. Plenty of food, but one billion people go hungry. Lavish lifestyles for a few, but poverty for too many others. Huge advances in medicine while mothers die every day in childbirth, and children die every day from drinking dirty water. Billions spent on weapons to kill people instead of keeping them safe.” Mr. Moon had observed, in the past years, a 24-hour fast in solidarity with a billion-hungry people worldwide. Indeed, true “Words” and “Acts” reveal the intentions and internal feelings.
If we talk about “Hunger” in Pakistan, “true intentions” and “sincere feelings” both seem “missing” somewhere at the regnant entities’ end of the country. We are citizens of a third-world country where hunger is undoubtedly the worst weapon of mass destruction and is the cause of most evils. Pakistan has 22 per cent of its population undernourished whereas 60 percent of the population is still facing food insecurity. This is due primarily to limited economic access by the poorest and most vulnerable – particularly women – to an adequate and diverse diet. According to the Global Food Security Index 2016, out of 113 countries, Pakistan ranks at 78th with a score of 47.8 whereas on the 2017 IFPRI Global Hunger Index, country ranked at 106 among 119 countries, with a score of 32.6. An average Pakistani household spends 50.8 percent of monthly income on food, and shocks, including high food prices, flooding, and significant population displacement in the northwest since 2008 exacerbate the situation.
(i) Lack of education (ii) Corruption (iii) Large scale of Import (iv) Materialism (v) Division of agriculture land (vi) Policies of the government, and last but not the least (vii) Non-sympathetic behaviors can be considered as prime reasons for making Pakistan “food insecure”. Wastage of food is also one of the major reasons of hunger in our country. According to an estimation, almost 40 percent of food is wasted in Pakistan. On one side, people are dying due to hunger, and on the other, there is an abundance of food that goes to waste. Food shortage and hunger is a grim reality of our country. According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, the inflation indicator surged to 3.9% in September 2017 as against 3.4% a month earlier, measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The impact of this on the food and beverages category is devastating for the common man as the price of monthly groceries soars. Even items that were once considered a poor man’s staple like vegetables and lentils have become expensive while meat and fish are almost unaffordable.
Malnutrition badly affecting each gender of the country. At the highest level, women and children are being victimized. The latest national nutrition survey found that 15percent of children under 5 suffer from acute malnutrition, the second highest rate in the region. Close to 44 percent of children in the same age group are stunted, 32 pc are underweight and the majority of children under 2 consume less than half of their daily energy requirements, with low level of vitamins and minerals. There is an utmost need to take effective measures to ensure nutrition security. We have to raise awareness about balanced diet, food habits and healthy living. Some charitable organizations are playing excellent role in fulfilling the food needs. Their free food “Dastarkhwan” services available around the cities of the country have become a lifeline for hundreds of people. Such steps are mandatory for rest of the hungry humans too, in the absence of comprehensive steps and policies taken by the government.
Hunger can be eliminated in our lifetimes, this requires comprehensive efforts to ensure that every man, woman and child enjoys Right to Adequate Food; women are empowered; priority is given to family farming and food systems everywhere are sustainable and resilient. There is an utmost need to take effective measures to ensure nutrition security. We have to raise awareness about balanced diet, food habits and healthy living. Across the globe, many different events are organized to raise awareness of problems in food supply and distribution and to raise money for cultivation of food plants and the distribution of food. Similarly, we need to organize symposia, conferences, workshops and presentations of particular issues like food production, distribution and security. There should also be micro-projects to help small-scale farmers at the grassroots level. The projects aim to help farmers be more productive and improve both local communities’ access to food and farmers’ cash income. Some charitable organization are playing excellent role in fulfilling the food needs. Their free food “Dastarkhwan” services available around the cities of the country have become a lifeline for hundreds of people.
At a time when Pakistan is facing countless problems, there are people who are silently working for the betterment of the motherland. These devoted Pakistanis are working towards accomplishment of their goal to bring Pakistan out of the shadows. These are the people who are striving to change perceptions regarding Pakistan from a terrorism-stricken Pakistan to an inspiring Pakistan. Despite all the pessimism prevailing there are some Pakistanis who are still highly motivated and are contributing towards welfare of the State in their individual capacity. Their spirits are high and they are certain that they can be the positive change agents for the country. Such people and organizations are mandatory for rest of the hungry humans too, in the absence of comprehensive steps and policies taken by the government.
— The writer is a Poet & former student of Economics at Karachi University.

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