A story of starvation

Published Jan 26, 2013 09:10pm

It is hard to believe that such people exist in Pakistan, an agricultural country no less, but they do. This woman belonged to Mirpurkhas in Sindh — a province that is considered by international organisations to be 72 per cent food insecure — and had arrived at the medical camp being held in interior Sindh seeking medical treatment for her children.

It had taken her monumental effort to simply get up from her bed in her village and travel the distance to the camp. That is because Noora, the woman in question, at five feet and three inches, weighed an alarmingly 23 pounds. Her mere existence was a changing point for the international organisation conducting the camp as it was at that point when they discovered that food insecurity had become a major and prevalent issue in Pakistan.

When Noora first arrived at the camp it was to seek medical treatment for her children. It was what she was expecting. She was told that she was the one who needed help, and that too in the form of nourishing food, and the concept was lost upon her.

In 2011 when she was first discovered, her upper arm measured 12cm. Through sustained efforts in making nutrition available to Noora, her upper arm now measures 25cm. Noora might have been severely undernourished but her children were perfectly healthy. That is because one of the first things that (traditionally) mothers in this part of the world sacrifice for her children is food. In a place where food is scarce, that sacrifice is even greater and very often at the cost of the mother’s health.

According to the National Nutrition Survey (NNS) in 2011, almost 58 per cent of Pakistanis are food insecure. From those approximately 28 per cent do not have resources to access food. Two thirds of these are focused in the rural areas, with Sindh as the worst hit of all — 72 per cent of the province is food insecure. Out of these 21 per cent are with hunger, 34 per cent are with ‘moderate’ hunger (have only one meal a day) and 17 per cent are with ‘severe’ hunger (they go more than three days without sufficient food). For these statistics to exist in an agricultural country like Pakistan (which is reportedly producing a surplus amount of wheat) is very worrying indeed.


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