May 6th, 2022
By Rehan Piracha
Over 4.66 million people are reeling from food insecurity in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Sindh, placing Pakistan among the top 10 food crisis countries in the world, according to the Global Report on Food Crises 2022.
In the recently-released annual report, the Global Network Against Food Crises notes that levels of hunger remain alarmingly high globally. The population in ‘crisis or worse’ tier of food insecurity has nearly doubled from 108 million to 193 million between 2016 and 2021.
“In 2021, almost 70 percent of the total number of people (193 million) in Crisis or worse or equivalent were found in ten food crisis countries/territories: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Yemen, northern Nigeria, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Sudan, South Sudan, Pakistan, and Haiti,” the report says.
The report says the number of people in Crisis or worse phase of food insecurity is expected to increase slightly in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkwa and decrease slightly in Sindh. Out of the 4.66 million people, Pakistan has over 1.03 million people living in emergency tier of food insecurity.
The analysis on Pakistan covers the rural populations of nine districts in Balochistan, seven newly merged districts in Khyber Pakhtunkwa and nine districts in Sindh, accounting for 9% of the country’s total population of 215 .3 million people.
Food insecurity rises in KP merged districts
The report points out that food insecurity in KP’s tribal districts has worsened since 2020. The number of people in crisis or worse (IPC Phase 3 or above) in the seven merged districts increased from 1.1 million in November 2019–May 2020 and June–August 2020 to 1.5 million during the October 2021–April 2022 lean season, the report says.
“In Sindh, 2.3 million people were in Crisis or worse in late 2021, an improvement since March–June 2021 (3.1 million).”
In Balochistan, when comparing the same nine districts analysed in 2019 and 2021, the number of people in Crisis or worse decreased from 1.4 million (50 percent of the analysed population) to 0.9 million (25 percent) in October 2021March 2022, the report adds.
Food insecurity up due to hike in food, fuel prices
According to the Global Report on Food Crises 2022, multiple shocks including high food and fuel prices, drought, livestock diseases and widespread loss of income-generating opportunities due to the impacts of COVID drove high levels of acute food insecurity across Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkwa and Sindh, adding that Khyber Pakhtunkwa was yet to recover from the impacts of a decade of conflict in the tribal districts.
The report says 81 percent of surveyed households in Khyber Pakhtunkwa and 65–70 percent in Balochistan and Sindh reported reduced income due to COVID related lockdown/restrictions in a household assessment conducted in July/August 2021.
The majority of households in all three provinces acquired new debts to meet basic needs during the three months preceding the assessment: 71 percent in Khyber Pakhtunkwa, 67 percent in Balochistan and 56 percent in Sindh.
“In all three provinces, inadequate cereal production at the household level heightened market dependency for food. At the same time, low incomes combined with high food and fuel prices weakened purchasing power.”
In 2021, moderate to severe drought conditions reduced crop and livestock production in Balochistan and Sindh. Balochistan experienced moderate to severe drought conditions from April to September 2021, while severe drought conditions were prevailing in eight out of nine districts of Sindh in June 2021, according to the Pakistan Meteorological Department.
In July/August 2021, around 56 percent of households in Balochistan and 30 percent in Sindh reported their household livelihood/income had been severely affected by drought. By October 2021, drought conditions improved in Sindh due to persistent rains in previous months, the report adds.
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, inadequate monsoon and pre-monsoon rainfall led to a decline in crop and livestock production in 2021. Lack of rainfall was cited as a primary contributor to lower production levels, with around one-third of farming households reporting reduced production for the main crop relative to the five-year average. Similarly, during the six months prior to the household assessment, between 27–47 percent of surveyed livestock holders experienced livestock deaths, largely due to limited availability of drinking water and fodder shortages.
Over a half a million wasted children in Sindh
Similarly, the global food crisis report expresses concern over the high levels of child wasting (low weight-for height) in nine districts of Sindh province, calling it a major public health problem that needs urgent attention and response.
At least 636,000 children under 5 years were wasted in April 2021–February 2022 in Sindh province while 38, 000 pregnant and lactating women were acutely malnourished, the report says in its findings.
The situation of child wasting was particularly severe in eight Sindh districts, ranging from 15.2 to 26.4 percent. Only Larkana district was classified in the serious tier, though at 12.3 percent, the prevalence of wasting was close to critical.
In Tando Allah Yar and Tando Muhammed Khan districts, at least 5 percent of children under 5 years were severely wasted. Umerkot district had the highest number of wasted children at 105,750, followed by Qambar Shahdadkot (95,420) and Shikarpur (70,471). The prevalence of wasting was expected to deteriorate in five out of nine districts–Matiari, Sujawal, Thatta, Umerkot and Shikarpur.
The Global Network Against Food Crises, is an alliance of the United Nations, the European Union, government and non-governmental agencies working to tackle food crises in the world.