World Food Day is an opportunity to take stock of the progress we have made in our shared journey toward Zero Hunger — one of the 17 ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by 193 countries. The SDGs commit us to work together to end hunger and malnutrition by 2030, here in Pakistan and around the world.
The day calls on us to renew our commitment to end hunger for every child, women and man – saving countless lives and helping build a brighter future. Ending hunger means creating a world where everyone, everywhere, has access to adequate affordable nutritious food.
The 2018 State of Food Security report, published in September, revealed that 821 million people around the world are still suffering from chronic hunger: 60% of these are women, which means that the misery of hunger will inevitably also be felt by their children. In fact, 45% of infant deaths worldwide are related to undernutrition. Globally, 151 million children under the age of 5 are affected by a condition known as stunting, where the child is too small for their age. Stunting is caused by chronic under-nutrition during the most critical periods of growth and development in early life.
The world produces enough food for everyone – but the devastating effects of conflict and climate change, unequal access to food, and food wastage mean that after a decade of progress the global hunger rate has started to rise once again. While most countries have achieved significant gains in the last 25 years in reducing hunger and undernutrition, progress in the majority of nations affected by conflict has stagnated or deteriorated. At the same time, one-third of all the food produced in the world is lost or wasted, at an estimated cost of USD 2.6 trillion.
Despite improvements in many areas, Pakistan still faces significant challenges. Between 2004-2016, undernourishment fell from 23.3% to 19.9%, but in the same period the number of undernourished people rose from 35.7 to 37.6 million. Pakistan’s Prime Minister has noted that stunting is a key concern of his government, given that Pakistan has the world’s third largest population of stunted children, with a 44% prevalence rate, and a similar proportion of chronically malnutrition children aged between 6-59 months. In 2013, 40% of women across the country were overweight, while 18% of women of reproductive age were underweight.
One of the major challenges faced by Pakistan is not so much the lack of food, but rather the lack of nutritious food. Pakistan is a large producer of rice and wheat, but this alone cannot guarantee a nutritious diet for her citizens. It is for this reason that the World Food Programme and the government of Pakistan, with the aid of international donors, have worked together to introduce locally developed specialized nutritious foods (SNFs) to improve the population’s nutritional intake.
The government of Pakistan is making significant efforts to tackle food and nutrition security and accelerate progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and Vision 2025 – its national development programme. WFP is committed to collaborating with the government and all our other partners – including NGOs, civil society, academia, private sector and other UN agencies – to achieve these shared ambitions for a better future.
I am confident that, working together, we will find lasting solutions to the root causes of malnutrition in Pakistan and banish hunger to the history books once and for all.
Finbarr Curran is Representative and Country Director, United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Pakistan