After decades of steady progress in the fight against hunger, the number of people without enough to eat is again on the rise in Pakistan, global aid agency Oxfam has reported.
According to the agency, nearly two-thirds of the Pakistani population spends between 50 and 70 per cent of its income on food, making it vulnerable to rising prices.
During the last four years, food inflation in Pakistan has been recorded at 94%, according to the Federal Bureau of Statistics. The agency also notes that food prices in Pakistan have hovered near an all-time peak since late 2010, sending tens of millions of Pakistanis deeper into poverty and a famine-like situation.
Thirty-six per cent of Pakistanis are undernourished, according to Oxfam’s food price pressure point map, which includes Pakistan among the 21 undernourished nations of the world. The map, part of the agency’s Grow campaign, provides a global snapshot of the impact of the international food price crisis.
While most identified nations are from the African continent, Pakistan was found more undernourished than Tanzania (35%) and Niger (28%). Pakistan was also found faring worse than Yemen (32%), where nearly every third person is feared to be malnourished.
However, Pakistan ranks better than second-ranked Haiti (58%), which was hit by a massive earthquake the same year as Pakistan suffered intense flooding, and Eritrea which has the highest percentage of affected population (66%).
Oxfam recommends that the government of Pakistan should develop a policy framework to not only check unjust food price hikes but also reinvigorate the economy at the local level. Revival of the local economy is extremely important to generate jobs and challenge the mounting fears of poverty that is directly contributing to malnutrition in Pakistan.
Leaders from the G-20 nations have delivered little more than band-aid solutions, giving little hope to struggling communities, says Oxfam.
“People around the globe are clamouring for bold action from world leaders and getting little more than speeches in return,” says Oxfam Executive Director Jeremy Hobbs. “Words sound nice but they don’t feed hungry families. It’s time for G-20 leaders to step back from their podiums and get to work.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2011.