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New Report Identifies Pakistan, Afghanistan as Global Food Shortage 'Hotspots'

As the situation unfolds, it is essential for international organizations, governments, and stakeholders to address the acute food insecurity in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Shivam Dwivedi
New Report Identifies Pakistan, Afghanistan as Global Food Shortage 'Hotspots' (Photo Source: Pixabay)
New Report Identifies Pakistan, Afghanistan as Global Food Shortage 'Hotspots' (Photo Source: Pixabay)

According to a joint report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP), Pakistan and Afghanistan have been identified as "early warning hotspots" for acute food insecurity.

The report identifies Pakistan, the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Syrian Arab Republic as hotspots with very high concern. Additionally, Myanmar is also included in the warning in this edition. These regions are grappling with a high number of people facing critical acute food insecurity, compounded by worsening drivers that are expected to intensify life-threatening conditions in the near future.

In the case of Pakistan, aside from the political turmoil, the country has been facing delays in receiving financial aid from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the past seven months. Pakistan is obligated to repay a substantial amount of USD 77.5 billion over the next three years, which poses a significant challenge considering its GDP of USD 350 billion in 2021.

The report highlights that the ongoing political crisis and civil unrest in Pakistan are likely to worsen in the lead-up to the general elections scheduled for October 2023. These issues, coupled with growing insecurity in the northwest region, a shortage of foreign reserves, a depreciating currency, and nationwide energy cuts, are eroding the country's ability to import essential food items and energy supplies, leading to increased food prices.

It is estimated that over 8.5 million people in Pakistan will face acute food insecurity between September and December 2023. In Afghanistan, the situation is even more dire, with 70 percent of the population unable to obtain two proper meals a day. The economic and political crises in both countries have significantly reduced households' purchasing power and their ability to afford food and other essential goods.

The report further suggests that if the economic and political crises in Pakistan persist, revenues from coal and food exports may decline, exacerbating the situation. In Afghanistan, the Taliban's assumption of power in August 2021 has led to the country's isolation, as the international community has not recognized the Taliban-led government. Meanwhile, ongoing instability in Pakistan has further deteriorated the economy, with conflicts among lawmakers, the judiciary, and the army contributing to the turmoil.

Given the current political situation, Pakistan lacks the financial resources to secure food imports waiting at its ports, resulting in shortages of basic necessities such as wheat flour. In an effort to alleviate the burden on the population due to rising prices, the government set up distribution sites across the country in March-April to provide free flour. Unfortunately, this initiative led to stampedes in several locations, causing casualties and injuries.

Mariyam Suleman Anees, a development specialist from Gwadar, Balochistan province, expressed concern about the stampedes and questioned how Pakistan reached this point. She also raised concerns about the economic crisis and its impact on the majority of the population, particularly international projects like the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which Pakistan considers crucial for future economic growth.

Anees suggested that China's loans, intended to foster economic growth through CPEC, may have worsened Pakistan's economic crisis. However, it is still premature to conclude whether the debts associated with CPEC will drain the Pakistani economy or present opportunities for growth in the future.

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