Inadequate emergency responses are disrupting local food systems and fail to support local producers
The global conversation on zero hunger is in progress but the current levels of hunger are alarming in more than 50 countries of the world.
In support of a shared vision to eradicate hunger, Welthungerhilfe and Concern Worldwide produced the Global Hunger Index every year to track the hunger levels around the world.
According to this year’s index, 48 countries have a ‘low’ level of hunger; the hunger level increases to ‘moderate’ in 26 countries, 40 countries have a ‘serious’ level of hunger prevalence, and 11 countries are at the ‘alarming’ level.
In the Global Hunger Index 2020 recently launched, Pakistan ranks 88th out of 107 countries. The food security and nutrition crisis is expected to worsen in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic because the country has a serious hunger level.
Among countries in the developing world, Pakistan faces one of the most severe levels of malnutrition. This is the fundamental cause of child morbidity and mortality.
Alliance 2015 — a strategic network of eight leading European non-government and non-profit organisations engaged in humanitarian and development actions in Pakistan and the world have released 2020 Global Hunger Index & Strategy for Stakeholders’ Engagement on Food and Nutrition Security 2021– 2025.
The disappointing fact is that the world is not on track to achieve the Second Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) known as Zero Hunger by the year 2030. Every government has reported an effort towards eliminating hunger, malnutrition and violence but the Global Hunger Index report has revealed alarming levels of hunger and food insecurity.
Eradicating hunger and malnutrition is one of the great challenges of our time. Not only do the consequences of not enough – or the wrong – food cause suffering and poor health, they also slow progress in many other areas of development like education and employment.
The Covid-19 pandemic has further aggravated the food and nutrition security situation across the world, including Pakistan.
In order to practically end hunger and ensure the right to adequate and nutritious food for all, we need to approach health and food and nutrition security in a way that considers human, animal, and environmental health and fair trade relations holistically, GHI 2020 has revealed.
Global experts say policy-makers, multilateral institutions, governments, communities and individuals should be engaged immediately to take action and contribute towards food availability. Food production and supply must be sustained and classified as an essential service. Safe working environments must be guaranteed to this end.
But Covid-19 and associated travel restrictions and limitations on the movement of essential goods, including food and agricultural inputs, protracted loss of income and rise in prices have negatively impacted millions of Pakistanis.
The IMF has predicted a sharp reversal in the declining poverty rates, with up to 40 percent of the population below the poverty line after the spread of Covid-19. Moreover, 17 million children under the age of five are missing routine vaccinations, remaining unprotected and are therefore more vulnerable to health risks.
The report highlights that globally far too many individuals are suffering from hunger; nearly 690 million people are undernourished; 144 million children suffer from stunting, a sign of chronic undernutrition; 47 million children suffer from wasting, a sign of acute undernutrition; and in 2018, 5.3 million children died before their fifth birthdays, in many cases as a result of undernutrition.
To practically end hunger and ensure the right to adequate food for all, we need to approach food security in a way that considers human, animal, and environmental health and fair trade relations holistically.
Although hunger worldwide has gradually declined since the year 2000, in many places progress has been too slow and hunger prevalence remains severe. Furthermore, these places are highly vulnerable to a worsening of food and nutrition insecurity caused by the overlapping health, economic and environmental crises of 2020.
To better respond to these crises and to prevent aggravation, the report has highlighted that in complex emergencies, multilateral institutions, governments, communities and individuals should use the lessons learned during the Covid-19 pandemic and other crises to build safe and resilient food systems. They should review food, health, and economic systems through a one-health lens to chart a path to environmental recovery by investing in sustainable food production, distribution and consumption.
The report has warned that beyond 2030, more actions will be important. These my include working towards a circular food economy that recycles nutrients and materials, regenerates natural systems and eliminates waste and pollution.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, an alarming 37 percent of the population in Pakistan is classified as food insecure, meaning that they do not “have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preference for an active and healthy life.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the fragility of globalised food systems characterised by increasing dependence on food imports by low- and middle-income countries, underinvestment in local farmers, farmer associations and small holder-oriented value chains, increasing rates of diet-related non-communicable disease.
Inadequate emergency responses are disrupting local food systems and fail to support local producers. Covid-19 containment measures — enforced without a clear declaration that agricultural and food services are essential — have contributed to food insecurity in many countries.
When the government declared a lockdown in the country many organisations and individuals helped the poor and the needy people through ration, medical services, hygiene kits and financial assistance in cash. These contributions are also helping Zero Hunger in the country.
The report highlights that the worsening food and nutrition security situation retarded human and economic development and carried the risk of jeopardising national security if it was not tackled well by the government, private sector, civil society, media, public, communities, academia and research institutions, the report pointed out.
“The time to act is NOW, individually, and collectively,” the report has warned. The report also identifies key stakeholders and roles they can play in averting this crisis besides laying out stakeholders’ engagement goals and objectives in the next five years.