63% Sindh population faces decline in real wages People forced to take cheaper food with less nutrient value; SAFWCO official

KARACHI: Food insecurity is on the rise in rural Sindh and some 63 per cent of its population (urban and rural) has suffered decline in real wages and is forced to take cheaper food with less nutrient value. According to NNS 2011, Sindh appeared as the poorest and food deprived province, because 72pc of the sample households were found to be food insecure.

“They included 21.1pc without hunger, 33.8 with moderate hunger and 16.8 with severe hunger. Discussing the prevalence of malnutrition among children, the latest report said that against the rate of 43pc stunting at national level, Sindh had 70pc rate. Wasting in Sindh was found at 19.4pc against the overall national rate of 16.8pc. Against the national level rate of anaemic children 62.1pc, Sindh had 73.3pc of sample children anaemic, with severe or moderate deficiency of haemoglobin level,” said Waheed Jamali, Coordinator to President Secretariat of Sindh Agricultural and Forestry Workers Coordinating Organization (SAFWCO) in an interview to PPI on Tuesday.

He said that escalating food prices had dealt a serious blow to earlier poverty reduction gains. “Food expenditures comprise on an average 70-80 per cent of the total income of the poor and the hike in prices has severely hurt the household purchasing power, particularly in rural Sindh where health-related expenditures, as a result of malnutrition, continue to add to the worries of the poor,” Jamali said.

He said the share of households unable to meet their medical expenses is estimated at around 60-63 per cent. He said access to healthy food in lower Sindh particularly in the coastal belt is abysmal, which has increased the number of people faced with malnutrition. Over 80 per cent of people in Thatta and Badin districts are living below the poverty line and are struggling to survive amid lack of basic amenities.

Jamali said a study of 1,407 households in Dadu and Shahdadkot districts, conducted by an NGO Action Against Hunger (AAH), revealed that nearly 22 per cent of the population in these two districts was suffering due to severe food insecurity, while nearly 78 per cent deaths in most of the districts of Sindh were linked with malnutrition.

He said: “At present about 90 per cent of the population in rural Sindh had a marginal status in terms of food intake or access to healthy food, with 35 per cent of the population being highly food insecure. The recent surge in prices of essential food commodities vis-Ã -vis stagnant or slow growth in wages has worsened people`s access to food.”

“According to the World Health Organisation survey conducted in food insecurity-struck districts of Sindh, the poorest households have substantially reduced their food expenditure by 0.75 per cent for every one per cent increase in food prices. This is bound to hurt their ability to afford even basic health services,” he informed.

He said above indicators reflects the situation has gone from bad to worse especially in Sindh where malnutrition and food insecurity among women and children has increased. This is not only a health issue but a socio-economic one as well. There are many underlying factors which are crippling [Sindhi] society as a whole. But the job is not for the NGOs or one department alone. Such as in a recent report, the Sindh Government’s Department for Planning and Development admits that hunger is widespread in the province, despite the availability of sufficient fertile farmland.

“Sindh forms the lower Indus basin and lies between 23 and 29 degrees north latitude and 67 and 71 degrees east longitude is 14.1 million hectares, represents 18% of total geographical area of Pakistan which is 79.61 mha. It covers 1,40,915 square kms and is about as large as England. Out of this nearly 39 per cent or 5.45 million hectares (or 13.45 million acres) are cultivable. About 9.9 per cent is culturable wastes and 0.57 mha or 4.8 per cent is under forestry,” Jamali concluded.

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