Islamabad: Despite strong agricultural base, the country fares poorly with respect to indicators of food security, as per the Ministry for National Food Security and Research. While figuring among the world top producers of staple foods and diary, Pakistan ranks a dismal 76th out of 107 countries in the Global Food Security Index. Malnutrition is the most serious consequence of food insecurity. The most recent National Nutrition Survey estimated the prevalence of stunting among children aged less than five years is of 44 percent, an alarming rate which has remained virtually unchanged since 1965. In Pakistan, 15% of children under age 5 suffer from acute malnutrition — the second-highest rate in the region.
The Ministry of Finance has estimated that micronutrient deficiencies alone are causing a loss of more than 2.5 percent of the Pakistan GDP. This situation also represents a significant threat to Pakistan’s development and stability, as it is recognized that hunger and poverty are among the root causes of extreme behaviors and violence. However, food security measures alone may have a limited effect on the nutritional well-being of individuals, unless the reinforcing detrimental linkages between food insecurity, disease, poor sanitation and inadequate education are addressed.
The dimensions and underlying causes of food insecurity and malnutrition are often complex and extremely location specific. They may differ widely from country to country, and from one location or population group to another, even within the same country. Beside these, there is a debate by FAO based on food security parameters for Pakistan being food secure country. The country remained in export regime for quite some years during the last decade. Despite its impressive and continuously growing agricultural production, the country is still facing high levels of food insecurity.
According to a global report published jointly by FAO, WFP, UNICEF, WHO and IFAD in 2019, 20.3 percent of Pakistan’s population (40 million people) is undernourished/food insecure. The prevalence of malnutrition amongst children aged 6-59 months is also very high, with an estimated 40 percent children stunted, 28 percent underweight, 18 percent wasted and 10 percent overweight. Further, around one-fourth (24 percent) of the country’s population is living below national poverty line and 39.0 percent is poor based on multidimensional poverty index (MPI).