80 districts out of 131 have no adequate food: moot told

ISLAMABAD: State of food security in Pakistan has deteriorated since 2003. The conditions for it are inadequate in 80 out of 131 districts of Pakistan. About 48.6 percent population of Pakistan doesn’t have access to sufficient food for active and healthy life.

This was informed by CEO Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment (SCOPE) Tanveer Arif while speaking at the launching ceremony of Alliance Against Hunger and Malnutrition (AAHM), organized by SCOPE in collaboration with Oxfam, International Land Coalition, Oxfam GROW Campaign and Drynet at a local hotel here on Thursday.

SCOPE’s CEO said food prices had also led to an adverse impact on health and nutrition in various ways as poorer food consumption increases malnutrition, which in turn heightens susceptibility to disease; both may lead to higher mortality rates.

He said Pakistan lags behind in infant mortality rate (at 63 per 1000 live births) and the under 5 years mortality rate (at 86.5 per 1000 live births). “These indicators continue to remain high mainly on account of unhealthy dietary habits, water borne diseases, malnutrition and rapid population growth.”

He said FATA has the highest percentage of food insecure population (67.7 percent) followed by Balochistan (61.2 percent) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (56.2 percent). Among the districts, Dera Bugti in Balochistan has the highest percentage of food insecure people (82.4 percent).

“Balochistan has the highest number of districts with worst conditions for food security. The 20 districts of Pakistan with worst conditions for food security include 10 districts from Balochistan, 5 from FATA; 3 from KPK; and 1 from Gilgit Baltistan (GB) and Sindh each.

Over the past 20 years there has been little change in the prevalence of malnutrition in the population despite more food availability and an overall increase in caloric intake per capita.

He said that in Pakistan, large family size is forced to expense 46 percent of the family income on food while the food expenditures in India are 35 percent and the US 7 percent. It is irony that around one third of the world’s food is never eaten that is 1.3 billion tons of food which is thrown away or left to rot every year.

“In order for economic growth to enhance the nutrition of the neediest, the poor must participate in the growth process and its benefits. In Pakistan food security is linked to agriculture which is the mainstay of the Pakistan economy as it provides employment to 45 percent population and provides input for agro-based industry. Agriculture sector recorded a growth of 3.1 percent against 2.4 percent last year. He said agriculture is a key sector of the economy and accounts for 21 percent of GDP. The agriculture has lost significant growth momentum as its growth slowed down to 2.7 percent in the decade of 2000s as against 4.4 percent in 1990s and 5.4 percent in the 1980s, he concluded.

Additional Secretary Abdul Basit Khan said that there is need to make joint efforts for discussing food insecurity and malnutrition issues in Pakistan. “Food security is not only related to poor people only but it is the issue linked to all others too. There is no headway yet in food security and malnutrition issues in Pakistan which is matter of great concern.” He said more and more efforts are required to tackle these issues.

Aslam Shaheen, Chief Nutrition, Planning Commission of Pakistan, said that 48 percent households are food insecure in Pakistan, while 45 districts are severely affected by food insecurity. Government intends to improve food security but we are facing challenges of climate change, population growth, food inflation and lack of coordination among stakeholders which are causing food security and malnutrition issues. Changes in food crop production due to climate change are affecting demand and supply of food. It also affects overall agriculture growth, he added.

Iftikhar Ahmed Khalid of Oxfam Pakistan said we are introducing Alliance to make efforts for food security and sufficient malnutrition required for people. People are suffering from disasters, therefore, it is the need of the hour that food security should be ensured in the country. We are committed to empower people in view food security issues. Elisa Pozzi of Asia Representative AAHM Secretariat also called for making hectic efforts to ensure food security and malnutrition.

Jean Luc-Siblot of WFP Rep Pakistan said that effective measures are required to provide food security in Pakistan. He said that food security should be ensured at all regions of the country through positive approach.

Javeria, Oxfam Novib, said that her organization is making hectic efforts for food security and farmers rights. She said that climate change would affect food production in Pakistan in future, therefore, we will have to lobby for implementation of food and agriculture policies. There is also need to help farmers, particularly women peasants. There is also need to tackle corruption and high transportation rates causing food price hike in Pakistan.

Mohammad Azeem Khan, DG NARC, said that food insecurity is multi-dimensional issue, therefore, joint efforts by all stakeholders are required to tackle it. He said that Pakistan is also in grip of food security issue as one-third of population live below poverty level. “We are also facing of malnutrition issue, while heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers are affecting quality of foods.”

He said there are no checks on food flooding in markets. There is need to stop unhealthy food in markets and ensure availability of quality food.

Dr Nomina, a representative of FAO, stressed the need to develop coordination among stakeholders to ensure food security and required malnutrition. She said that AAHM would try to build ties with government, the UN and NGOs.

Zaffar Sabri, Group Head, Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PAPP), said that more people die of hunger than TB, Malaria and other diseases. Planet has enough food but everyone has no sufficient food. He said that access to food and energy is mandatory for public welfare.

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