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October 13, 2017

Pakistan ranks 106 among 119 on Global Hunger Index


October 13, 2017

LAHORE: In the 2017 Global Hunger Index (GHI), Pakistan ranks 106th out of 119 qualifying countries and with a score of 32.6, its status is ‘serious’, while bordering on ‘alarming’ level.

As per the latest GHI, Pakistan’s ranking improved by just one notch if compared with last year’s standing. Some progress has been made for three of the GHI indicators, but child stunting has increased since 2000.

Pakistan is also one of the countries most affected by disaster and climate change in the world, and over 39 percent of its population still lives in the shadow of multidimensional poverty. In some districts of the country, the effects of drought and poverty are hardly felt while in others they threaten communities with hunger.

A comprehensive overview of Pakistan’s nutrition situation was provided by the National Nutrition Survey, showed many of the most disconcerting statistics related to conditions in the southern province of Sindh, where 50 percent of children under the age of five were stunted and 19 percent suffered from wasting or acute malnutrition.

As per the report, Sindh’s nutritional problems have many causes, from a relative lack of investment in its population, infrastructure and facilities to the impact of the 2010 super-flood, which hit Sindh particularly hard. Between 2013 and 2015, Sindh suffered from a severe drought, above all in Thar, a desert region that covers much of one district, Umerkot, and all of another, Tharparkar.

In the most recent Human Development Index for Pakistan, Tharparkar was ranked in the bottom category. An in-depth assessment in 2015 concluded that virtually the entire population of Thar was living below the international poverty line $1.90 per person per day.

Thar has suffered primarily due to its inhospitable desert geography along with the fact that relatively speaking, it has received fewer resources to stimulate its development than other parts of the country. By way of contrast, the richest districts in Pakistan receive five times more public funds on average than the poorest.

As the drought worsened through late 2014 into early 2015 and newspapers reported on the deaths of dozens of children, a number of donors responded to the crisis: the German government supported Welthungerhilfe’s (WHH) activities, and, perhaps most significantly, the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) funded a joint humanitarian intervention designed by Concern Worldwide (Concern) and WHH.

As per 2017 ranking, global hunger levels have fallen more than a quarter since 2000, but more recent rising hunger scores of several countries in the 2017 GHI underline how uneven this progress has been and how precarious it is to maintain.

Famine has cast a shadow over four countries in the past year while conflict and climate change continue to hit the poorest the hardest. The GHI this year indicates that beyond these acute crises, long term obstacles to reducing hunger in several countries may also be threatening efforts to reach zero hunger.

Nowhere is this more evident than in Africa south of the Sahara, where revised data place the Central African Republic in the “extremely alarming” category – the first time a developing country has fallen into the report’s highest category since the 2014 report.

The country has the same score today as it did in 2000, suggesting any progress made in recent years has been subsequently reversed. Several other countries including Sri Lanka, Mauritania, and Venezuela also have higher GHI scores in 2017 than in 2008, after witnessing falling scores in the previous two decades.

“The results of this year’s Global Hunger Index show that we cannot waiver in our resolve to reach the UN Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger by 2030,” said Shenggen Fan, director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute.

“We have made great progress toward that goal but indications that this progress is threatened emphasises the need to establish resilience in food systems. We must provide immediate aid to those areas facing the most severe crises, such as famines, and construct policies at the international and national levels to address the structural issues that create persistent food insecurity.” Amidst some very worrying data there is also some good news. The level of hunger in developing countries decreased by 27 percent since 2000.

During the same period, GHI scores of 14 countries, including Senegal, Azerbaijan, Peru, Panama, Brazil and China improved by 50 percent or more. Angola, Ethiopia and Rwanda—each experienced violent conflict in recent decades—were among 72 countries which improved their GHI scores between 25 and 49.9 percent, making progress from “extremely alarming” levels to “serious levels”.