ISLAMABAD: On the World Food Day being observed on Sunday (today), unprecedented floods have exacerbated the previously high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition for millions of people in Pakistan, particularly in Sindh and Balochistan.

The global food crisis is a confluence of competing crises caused by climate shocks, conflict and economic pressures that has pushed the number of hungry people around the world from 282 million to 345 million in just the first months of 2022.

The food situation is now feared to worsen with crops destroyed and food prices currently rising with intervals. Even before the floods, the hunger situation in Pakistan was serious and, according to the ‘Global Hunger Index, the country ranked 99th out of 121 countries surveyed.

Latest official estimates show floods have an adverse impact on 116 out of the country’s 160 districts, affecting about 33 million people - nearly 15 per cent of the total population - particularly in Sindh and Balochistan.

For last three years, hunger numbers have repeatedly hit new peaks, says UN agency on World Food Day

According to preliminary estimates of the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis carried out prior to the floods in the first week of July, about 5.96 million people, 30 per cent of the rural population, were estimated to be facing high levels of acute food insecurity, IPC Phase 3 (crisis) and above, between July and November 2022 in 28 vulnerable districts analysed in Balochistan, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Acute food insecurity is expected to increase considerably as livelihoods of a large number of people have been disrupted and vulnerable households are forced to deplete their productive assets in order to secure their basic needs.

In addition, early information indicates severe losses of food stocks at household and warehouse levels, including wheat and wheat flour, which provides about 35pc of the average per capita energy requirements.

A statement from World Food Programme (WFP) says: “We are facing an unprecedented global food crisis and all signs suggest we have not yet seen the worst. For the last three years hunger numbers have repeatedly hit new peaks.”

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has proposed a ‘Food Import Financing Facility’ (FIFF) for countries to help their capacity for efficient food production.

FAO Director General Qu Dongy said it is important to be aware that the main drivers of food crises – lack of investment in agri-food systems and rural areas, research and development, direct impacts from conflict and insecurity, extreme climatic events, and economic slowdowns – are expected to persist in 2023.

The high costs of energy, inputs, production and trade are likely to have a major impact on the coming agricultural seasons: farmers may produce less, export less and earn less, and these factors can increase putting us at risk of facing a food availability crisis.

Separately, International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s executive board has approved a new, temporary ‘food shock window’ that will be available for a year to provide additional access to emergency financing for countries facing urgent balance of payment need related to the global food crisis.

A combination of climate shocks and pandemic has disrupted food production and distribution, driving up the cost of feeding people and families. The ‘food shock window’ will provide for a period of one year, a new channel of payment needs due to acute food insecurity, a sharp increase in their food import bill, or a shock to their cereal exports, an IMF statement said.

Published in Dawn, October 16th, 2022

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