ISLAMABAD: Among countries in the developing world, Pakistan faces one of the most severe crises of malnutrition, which is the fundamental cause of child morbidity and mortality.
Pakistan ranks 88th out of 107 countries in the Global Hunger Index while food security and nutrition crisis is expected to worsen in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic because country has a serious hunger level.
These are the finding of the “2020 Global Hunger Index & Strategy for Stakeholders’ Engagement on Food and Nutrition Security 2021– 2025 report launched in Islamabad this week by Alliance 2015 — a strategic network of leading eight European non-government and non-profit organizations engaged in humanitarian and development actions in Pakistan and the world.
The report highlights that the worsening food and nutrition security situation retarded human and economic development and carried the risk of jeopardizing national security if it was not tackled well by government, private sector, civil society, media, public, communities, academia and research institutions, the report pointed out.
“The time to act is now, individually, and collectively,” the report has warned. The report also identifies key stakeholders and roles they can play in averting this crisis besides laying out stakeholders’ engagement goals and objectives in the next five years.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further aggravated the food and nutrition security situation in Pakistan. Travel restrictions and limitations on the movement of essential goods including food and agricultural inputs, protracted loss of income and rise in prices have already negatively impacted millions of Pakistanis.
The IMF has predicted a sharp reversal in the declining poverty rates, with 40 percent of the population below the poverty line after the spread of COVID-19.
Moreover, 17 million children under the age of five are missing routine vaccinations, leaving them unprotected and more vulnerable to health risks posed by COVID-19 outbreak.
The report highlights that globally, far too many individuals are suffering from hunger: nearly 690 million people are undernourished; 144 million children suffer from stunting, a sign of chronic under-nutrition; 47 million children suffer from wasting, a sign of acute under-nutrition; and in 2018, 5.3 million children died before their fifth birthdays, in many cases as a result of under-nutrition.
Although hunger worldwide has gradually declined since 2000, in many places progress is too slow and hunger remains severe.
Furthermore, these places are highly vulnerable to a worsening of food and nutrition insecurity caused by the overlapping health, economic and environmental crises of 2020.
To better respond to, and indeed to prevent, the report highlight that complex emergencies, multilateral institutions, governments, communities and individuals should use the lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic and other crises to build safe, resilient food systems.
They should review food, health, and economic systems through a One Health lens to chart a path to environmental recovery by investing in sustainable food production, distribution and consumption.
The report warned that beyond 2030, still other actions will be important such as working towards a circular food economy that recycles nutrients and materials, regenerates natural systems and eliminates waste and pollution.
An alarming 37 percent of the population in Pakistan is classified as food insecure; meaning that they do not “have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preference for an active and healthy life,” according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the fragility of globalized food systems characterized by increasing dependence on food imports by low- and middle-income countries, underinvestment in local farmers, farmer associations and smallholder-oriented value chains, increasing rates of diet-related non-communicable disease.
Inadequate emergency responses are disrupting local food systems and fail to support local producers. COVID-19 containment measures—enforced without a clear declaration that agricultural and food services are essential—have contributed to food insecurity in many countries.