Monday February 26, 2024

Climate, poverty and hunger

By Editorial Board
March 20, 2023

As if armed conflict and economic downturn is not enough doom, it is most likely that climate change will be leading to an acceleration in humanitarian crises around the world in 2023. Poverty is set to affect 8.4 to 9.1 million people in Pakistan, while 7.6 million people will face food insecurity. If these statistics are not scary enough, about 17 million women and children are at risk of preventable disease and 640,000 women and girls are at risk of gender-based violence. This and more has been intimated by the World Bank in a recent report shared with Pakistani authorities. Needless to say, climate change has played a significant role in this, emerging as an impactful factor in pushing people into more misery. According to the Bank, the 2022 floods have had a negative impact on any progress in Pakistan towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 2022 superfloods had affected one-third of the country, leading to 1,700 deaths.

While impacted the worst by climate change, Pakistan contributes in minuscule levels to global carbon emissions. Not only that, climate-change induced events such the 2022 floods, and the increasing economic disparities in the country, are not only leading to more poverty but also bringing with them even more food insecurity as highlighted by the World Bank. According to the FAO, food security is “when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” Needless to say, Pakistan can hardly boast any of the metrics cited in this definition. In the past, the FAO had emphasized the need for cooperation between developing countries from the region in order to improve agricultural outcomes and share experiences of fighting hunger. The need for agricultural collaboration should go together with the agenda of reducing poverty. If the distribution of wealth does not improve, there is little chance of addressing hunger. The region continues to produce distributive inequalities that snatch food from the mouths of urban and rural populations. This will need to change through concentrated effort on an urgent basis.

There is also now a need for an emergency-level response to climate change and its consequences on the people of Pakistan. The only way forward is to ensure sustainable development while also making sure the climate-change threat is taken head-on by working with other countries in the boat and pressing on the Global North to help us deal with the repercussions of their actions. As advised by the World Bank, the government of Pakistan will have to seriously look at ways to improve the people’s lot by investing in employment and working towards the recovery and reconstruction of critical assets, services, and infrastructure.