Leave no one behind
THE World Food Day is observed annually on 16 October to highlight the millions of people worldwide who cannot afford a healthy diet and the need for regular access to nutritious food.
The theme for 2022 is “Leave NO ONE behind”. In the 2022 Global Hunger Index, Pakistan ranks 99th out of the 121 countries with sufficient data to calculate 2022 GHI scores. With a score of 26.1, Pakistan has a level of hunger that is serious.
The prevalence of food insecurity in the country is estimated at 38.1 percent of the population in 2021, whereas the food insecure population in Pakistan is estimated to be 90.7 million.
The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) released the key findings of the Household Integrated Economic Survey (HIES), 2018-19.
It reveals that 16% of the population is experiencing moderate or severe food insecurity. The incidence is twice as high among the rural population, 20%, as among the urban, 9.2%.
Shockingly, three out of five households, 61%, among the lowest two income quantiles in the survey, are experiencing food insecurity.
The situation has further worsened since March 2020 as a result of the pandemic crisis. Covid-19 caused many to be cut off from their families, work, social lives, and even, at times, their supply of food.
Although the government had decided to set up containment, an exception was made for the majority of farmers in rural areas, so that they could continue their activities because the country those days was in the midst of a harvest and many farmers had no choice but to work every day to support themselves.
But this was not enough to avoid the agricultural crisis that was looming in rural areas because with the confinement, the transport of goods was greatly reduced, markets were less accessible and small producers had difficulty to sell their products with wasted stocks and fallen prices.
In addition, the risk of the virus spreading remained real because farmers often cooperate with each other to harvest the crops, and there is mutual assistance between villages, sometimes using additional outside labour.
These exchanges increased the risk of the virus circulating in rural areas, where no testing was actually available and where farmers with their low incomes could not afford to travel to testing centres in the cities.
Flood-torn Pakistan faces a monumental hunger crisis and a stark winter with crops destroyed and millions of people still destitute after flooding left much of the country under water.
Vast amounts of food crops were destroyed and are still under flood waters that have yet to recede.
Food insecurity is increasing and, according to the latest estimates from officials, Pakistan lost almost 15pc of its rice crop in the floods, which also destroyed many farming families’ grain reserves.
This, along with the huge number of fallen and dead livestock. Wastage of food is also one of the major reasons for 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.
Malnutrition badly affects each gender of the country, at the highest level, almost half of the country’s population is below the age of 20.
As a result, the vulnerability to food insecurity and hunger remains a threat for the people of Pakistan.
Statistics reveal that 44 percent of children in Pakistan are suffering from stunting, wasting or acute malnutrition.
Every year, 800,000 children die in Pakistan. 61 percent children in Pakistan suffer from iron deficiency anemia, 54 percent from Vitamin A deficiency, 40 percent from Vitamin D deficiency and 39 percent from zinc deficiency.
This is indeed an alarming situation for policymakers and raises serious questions about the performance of governments and management authorities.
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 organised 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 organise 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 non-governmental organisations played a vital role in recent flood crises. JDC, Akhuwat, Edhi Foundation, Legal Aid Society, Rizq and many others helped flood survivors in their best capacity.
NGOs can continue their support in providing food security, livelihoods, water, sanitation, and hygiene support in the most affected districts.
They also can promote sustainable and climate-resilient agricultural mechanization to improve agricultural production, and support incomes and job creation by training farmers and youth.
Such steps are mandatory for the rest of the hungry humans too, in the absence of comprehensive policies taken by the government. Error! Filename not specified.
—The writer is a Poet, Philanthropist and Journalist, based in Karachi.