Starving despite food abundance

Food is there but people don’t have access to it

Editorial March 28, 2019

Pakistan is a unique country where the abundance of food and malnutrition and stunted growth among the children, especially in Sindh and Balochistan, go together.

According to a report by the International Food Policy Research Institute, around one in five of Pakistan’s more than 200 million people are malnourished. For the last so many years not a day passes without one or the other report about children dying of malnutrition or due to non-availability of proper and timely medical attention in Tharparkar district of Sindh.

Isn’t it puzzling that Pakistan, despite being well-off in wheat and rice production, has one of the highest infant mortality rates, mostly attributed to malnutrition or starvation? A recent report in this newspaper quoted the US Department of Agriculture projections as estimating Pakistan’s wheat export at 500,000 tons and that of rice at 7.4 million tons from May 2018 until April 2019.

Given this food availability of wheat and rice, one is compelled to believe that all this suffering of children and their mothers must be due to lack of interest or mismanagement on the part of the government.

Even judges of the superior courts have repeatedly pointed out corruption in management of food supplies and medical facilities to the people of Thar. The food is there but the people don’t have access to it; budget allocations are there but medicines are not being supplied; millions of rupees have been spent on RO plants but they are not functioning.

It was probably the realisation of this mismanagement that the Food and Agriculture Organisation has pointed out that “poor physical infrastructure, particularly in the remote rural areas throughout Pakistan, is also a limitation on access to food,” and “this is also linked to inadequate water and sanitation, education and health service delivery, which together with the lack of awareness of appropriate dietary intake contributes to greater food insecurity and malnutrition.”

Published in The Express Tribune, March 28th, 2019.

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