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UN Report Highlights Pakistan as 'Very High Concern' Area for Food Insecurity

UN report underscores the urgent need for immediate attention and action to address the worsening food security situation in these vulnerable regions, calling for international support and coordinated efforts to alleviate the impact of acute food insecurity and prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.

Shivam Dwivedi
UN Report Highlights Pakistan as 'Very High Concern' Area for Food Insecurity (Photo Source: Pixabay)
UN Report Highlights Pakistan as 'Very High Concern' Area for Food Insecurity (Photo Source: Pixabay)

Acute food insecurity in Pakistan is projected to escalate in the coming months, exacerbating the consequences of the 2022 floods, as the country grapples with economic and political turmoil, according to a recent United Nations report.

Released jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP), the report titled 'Hunger Hotspots: FAO-WFP Early Warnings on Severe Food Insecurity' covers the period from June to November 2023.

The report highlights the challenges faced by Pakistan, stating that the country's prolonged financial crisis has been aggravated by rising state debt amid the present global economic slump. It reveals that the government is burdened with repaying a significant sum of USD 77.5 billion in external debt between April 2023 and June 2026. This poses a substantial challenge considering Pakistan's GDP was recorded at USD 350 billion in 2021, as reported by Dawn, a Pakistan-based English daily.

Moreover, the report emphasizes that growing political instability and delayed reforms have hindered the disbursement of a crucial new loan line from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and additional support from bilateral partners. The looming political crisis and civil unrest ahead of the October 2023 national elections, particularly in the northwest of the country, further contribute to the escalating instability. Insufficient foreign reserves and a depreciating currency have reduced Pakistan's ability to import essential food and energy supplies, leading to increased food costs and nationwide energy shortages.

The aftermath of the devastating floods that struck last year has worsened the food security situation. The floods caused extensive damage, resulting in economic losses amounting to PKR 30 billion in the agricultural sector alone. The report predicts that over 8.5 million people will face severe food insecurity between September and December 2022.

It warns that economic and political challenges will continue to erode households' purchasing power and hinder their ability to access essential food and other necessities, thereby exacerbating food insecurity and malnutrition.

Furthermore, the report highlights the potential negative impact on Afghanistan's coal and grain export income if Pakistan's economic and political turmoil worsens, as Pakistan is Afghanistan's primary trading partner.

In light of these findings, the report emphasizes the need to strengthen the capacity of national and provincial disaster management agencies to incorporate forecast-based finance and risk insurance into their disaster management and contingency plans. It also calls for enhancing the shock-responsive nature of existing social protection mechanisms, such as the Benazir Income Support Programme, to facilitate effective preventive action and humanitarian response through social protection systems.

The UN agencies further reveal that acute food insecurity is expected to worsen in 81 hunger hotspots across 22 countries during the forecast period from June to November 2023. The most concerning countries include Afghanistan, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen. Additionally, Haiti, the Sahel (Burkina Faso and Mali), and Sudan have been elevated to the highest level of concern due to significant limitations on travel and recent outbreaks of conflict, posing severe threats to food security in these regions.

Countries such as Pakistan, the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Kenya, Congo, and Syria are also identified as high-risk areas, while the warning extends to Myanmar as well.

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