THE NEWS: How to tackle food insecurity

Country: Pakistan
THE NEWS: How to tackle food insecurity
22 February 2024

Dr. Abid Qaiyum Suleri underscores the critical importance of prioritizing food security alongside macroeconomic stability in Pakistan, as mandated by the constitutional obligation outlined in Article 38. Despite Pakistan's self-sufficiency in staple crops and being an exporter of various agricultural products, the nation grapples with increasing food insecurity exacerbated by economic challenges and extreme weather events.

The impact of extreme weather, such as floods, has led to a surge in acute food insecurity, affecting millions of people. Even before such calamities, Unicef's National Nutrition Survey in 2018 revealed alarming levels of food insecurity and undernourishment, particularly among children. Recent reports indicate a threefold increase in moderate to severe food insecurity, underscoring the vulnerability of a significant portion of the population to unforeseen shocks.

Economic factors, including currency depreciation and rising commodity prices, further exacerbate food insecurity. The majority of Pakistanis struggle to afford a nutritious diet, with over 80% unable to meet the cost of maintaining a healthy diet. The economic consequences of undernutrition are substantial, amounting to billions of dollars annually, highlighting the urgency of addressing food insecurity as a crucial aspect of economic revival.

To effectively tackle food insecurity, the government must adopt a comprehensive approach that addresses all pillars of food security simultaneously. This includes ensuring physical availability of food, improving socioeconomic access, promoting proper assimilation in the body, and ensuring sustainability. Transitioning to climate-smart agriculture, investing in agricultural research and development, improving rural infrastructure, and implementing targeted interventions are essential steps.

Additionally, initiatives to create livelihood opportunities, curb hoarding, strengthen social safety nets, and enhance access to clean drinking water and sanitation facilities are crucial. A national nutrition policy framework and revisiting the National Food Security Policy to address climate change impacts are also necessary.

While pursuing economic recovery, the government must prioritize a comprehensive food security plan that does not undermine other initiatives. Striking a delicate balance between these priorities is challenging but essential for ensuring the well-being of the population. It is imperative for the incoming government to deliver on this challenge to fulfill its constitutional obligation and ensure the food security of all citizens.

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Photo credit: Internally displaced people gather to receive free food near their makeshift camp in the flood-hit Chachro of Sindh province. — AFP/File 

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