Acute food insecurity in Pakistan is likely to rise in the next months if the country’s economic and political turmoil intensifies. Aggravating the consequences of the 2022 floods, according to a new United Nations (UN) report released on Monday.
Describing Pakistan and 21 other crisis-hit countries as “hotspots of very high concerns”, two Rome-based UN agencies. In their new early warning report said that the nations will witness an increase in acute food insecurity over the next six months.
The report by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) calls for urgent attention to save both lives and livelihoods. It covers the period from June to November 2023.
Since the pandemic, Pakistan has been battered by calamities that have pushed up the price of food and fuel. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and two events were made more extreme by climate change. A spring heatwave that shriveled harvests, then summer floods that drowned them. Now there’s an economic crisis so dire, the country risks default.
As the country still reels from the devastating floods that hit over the summer, which government officials estimate damaged more than 80% of the country’s crops. It’s also contending with economic uncertainty that has left food and medicine lingering in ports. The State Bank of Pakistan says that their foreign exchange reserves have fallen to a critical level of $4.3 billion—barely enough for three weeks of imports.
Inflation reached nearly 25% last year, but the figure conceals dramatic variations. In poorer rural areas, prices of food rose even higher.
Now, the World Food Programme expects that 5.1 million people are likely to be a step away from famine-levels of hunger by the end of March. An increase of 1.1 million people from the previous quarter. “That number is frightening,” says Chris Kaye, the Pakistan country director of the WFP.
All of the highest-level hotspots have populations that are facing or are expected to face hunger. Or are on the verge of deteriorating into catastrophic conditions, due to critical food shortages and severe aggravating factors. These countries deserve immediate attention.