Food security: where Pakistan stands

The country is teetering on the brink

Pakistan was ranked 92nd out of 116 nations in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) in the year 2021. The country has a level of hunger that is categorized as ‘serious’, with a score of 24.7. On the regional level, Pakistan is better positioned as compared to India which ranked101, while the other two close regional neighbours, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, outshone Pakistan by getting ranks of 76 and 65, respectively.

The GHI is aimed at galvanizing global action to combat hunger. The index comprises four indicators, including undernourishment (which depicts the proportion of the population which consumes insufficient calories); child wasting (refers to the proportion of children under the age of five who are underweight for their height, reflecting acute under-nutrition); child stunting, and under-five mortality rate (the mortality rate of under-five children).

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The prevalence of 37.6percent of stunting among children appears the area of grave concern for Pakistan. However, Pakistan has been able to bring the proportion of the undernourished population down to 12.9 percent from 21.1 percent in 2000-2002.Along the same lines, Pakistan has also succeeded in cutting down the percentage prevalence of wasting in under-five children to 7.1 percent in 2020 from 14.1 percent in 2000.

The report, jointly published by Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe on global hunger, mentions, “As the year 2030 draws closer, achievement of the world’s commitment to Zero Hunger is tragically distant”.  Further, it contends that “current projections based on the Global Hunger Index (GHI) show that the world as a whole— and 47 countries in particular— will fail in achieving even low hunger by 2030”. In addition, the global report on food crises-2021 predicts that food crises will become more widespread and severe, with a bleak outlook for 2021. According to the World Food Programme, 41 million people are on the verge of famine.

Our economic and financial policies have only exacerbated social and economic inequities while simultaneously increasing the number of people who are food insecure. To avoid future food crises, the government must strive to improve the value chain of fruit and vegetable crops while also ensuring the availability of storage facilities. The government must promote crop diversification, water management, and “climate-smart” farming to decrease the devastating effects of natural disasters on food security. Prioritizing agricultural value addition and preserving subsidies for essential crops are also critical for the country’s food security

According to the global hunger report, food security is being threatened on numerous fronts, with growing conflicts, extreme weather events due to global climate change, and the economic and health issues posed by the covid-19 pandemic, all contributing to hunger. Food insecurity is about more than just a scarcity of food in the market. It also indicates a lack of sufficient funds to acquire food, let alone nutritious and wholesome foods.

Over the last three years, Pakistan’s double-digit food price inflation, along with dwindling income, has left more Pakistanis food insecure. The World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that approximately 43 percent of Pakistanis are food insecure. 18 percent of those in this group have acute food insecurity. The WFP contends that affordability is the “greatest barrier in achieving a nutritious diet,” estimating that the majority of Pakistanis are incapable of affording nutritionally acceptable food. Thus, increasing food availability is insufficient to end hunger and undernutrition; and it is just as essential, if not more so, to ensure that people have access to healthy and safe meals if universal food security, and the pervasive concerns of stunting and wasting among children are to be dealt with.

Our economic and financial policies have only exacerbated social and economic inequities while simultaneously increasing the number of people who are food insecure. To avoid future food crises, the government must strive to improve the value chain of fruit and vegetable crops while also ensuring the availability of storage facilities. The government must promote crop diversification, water management, and “climate-smart” farming to decrease the devastating effects of natural disasters on food security. Prioritizing agricultural value addition and preserving subsidies for essential crops are also critical for the country’s food security.

Dr Muhammad Abdul Kamal
The writer is working as an Assistant Professor at Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan and can be reached at [email protected]

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