Hunger a neglected catastrophe

Hunger
Hunger

By Andaleeb Rizvi

KARACHI: As 150 countries around the world celebrate World Food Day today (Wednesday) to commemorate the founding date of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in 1945, Pakistanis will celebrate Eidul Azha.

Based on the idea of brotherhood and sharing, and to care for those who cannot afford to do so themselves, this festival, in which Muslims slaughter millions of animals, attracts thousands of people from across the country in the hopes of collecting whatever scraps of meat they can get. Whether all the people are successful in collecting enough to sustain them for long or not remains debatable, but the fact is that Pakistan suffers from 48.6 percent food insecurity as per the Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment (SCOPE).

Also, as per FAO, 24 percent of the population is undernourished, while 37.5 million people in Pakistan are not receiving proper nourishment. Deficiencies range from protein to iodine, along with other health problems, due to insufficient intake of essential nutrients.

There are economic implications of this issue as well; for example, just three types of malnutrition are responsible for 3-4 percent of GDP loss in Pakistan in any given year, according to the United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition (SCN)’s fifth report on the world nutrition situation.

Malnutrition in Pakistan is usually associated with poverty and the main factors include low consumption of food and foods with low nutritional value.

However, despite Pakistan being a food insecure country, it was removed from Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries (LIFDC) list in 2011 on the basis of net food-exporter criterion; the others – Turkmenistan, Tuvalu and Vanuatu – graduated based on income criterion.

As per statistics, Pakistan exported Rs 378,679 million worth of food in the FY 2011-12 – when Pakistan was removed from LIFDC list – and Rs 458,951 million in FY 2012-13.

This brings us to the fact that our country exports a huge amount of food, while the people themselves remain hungry, undernourished and, in some cases, even die of hunger.

According to latest data on malnourishment, one child out of four, less than 5 years of age, is suffering from rickets and 842 million people are still suffering from chronic hunger; two billion people lack vitamins and minerals; and 1.4 billion people are overweight.

Food insecurity and the resultant deterioration in physical and mental health is an important fact, often overlooked by the government.

Moreover, due to several natural and man-made disasters in Pakistan, including the 2010 flood, and the resultant large-scale displacement, the population has become more vulnerable to food insecurity, especially in Sindh and Balochistan.

At the conclusion of a two-day visit to Pakistan in June 2013, United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director Ertharin Cousin urged a renewed effort to address the food and nutrition needs of people affected by displacement, natural disasters and poverty.

It is important to know that at least 3.1 million children die annually around the world due to poor nutrition – that is around 770 children every day. Courtesy Daily Times

Hunger, Food, Health, Agriculture in Pakistan,
Published in ZaraiMedia.com
Hunger, Food, Health, Agriculture in Pakistan,

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