Next time one is accosted by a minor, who begs for roti and claims to be starving, one should not be skeptical. Given the statistics followed by warnings of four UN agencies, probability dictates that the beggar child is speaking the truth. The Asia and the Pacific Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, World Food Programme, Unicef and WHO elucidated that in Asia-Pacific region, 25% of children are stunting. The report comes at a time when the five-year-old Yemini girl, Amal Hussain, who became the face of the famine in Yemen, died of malnutrition. With more than half of the world’s malnourished children in the Asia-Pacific region and only 4% of the children receiving a minimally acceptable diet in Pakistan, specifically, this is a living hell for our under-five population.
Although it is a caveat that 14.5 million children are overweight in the region, but that is a separate albeit a related issue. Indeed, food quality has been sacrificed for ready availability and convenience. Processed foods, high dependence on meat and dairy products, and an increase in sugary consumables has led to the overweight epidemic. Ironic as it seems, part of it is owed to the disparities in income between classes. Household income is relevant here. The UN agencies warn that if malnutrition is not curbed by 2030 as set forth by the SDGs, the economies of the regional countries will suffer along with loss of human life. Pakistan is in no position to withstand more blows to its economy.
Culturally, we thrive on hospitality and feeding guests but the excessive food and wastage at events is shameful. We should be embarrassed about inviting hundreds of guests to show off wealth as a sign of social status. While we wait for our government to care, a paradigm shift needs to occur with regard to celebratory events where feeding the food-deprived people gets precedence over wastage of food. This demands a caring and sharing attitude in the real sense.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 4th, 2018.
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