Thursday, October 17, 2013

Pakistan's food shortage alarms rights organizations

Pakistan's independent Human Rights Commission (HRCP) has urged the government to take up the issue of food scarcity and rising prices in the country. The organization said food insecurity in Pakistan was reaching alarming levels.

“Growing food scarcity in Pakistan and the subsequent rise in prices have gravely affected access to food and nutrition not just for the poor but also for the large middle-income segment of the population," HRCP said in a statement. "The lack of attention to this critical issue is no less dangerous and frightening than the food scarcity itself."

The NGO also pointed out that the food shortages were the result of bad governmental policy, blaming successive governments for neglecting the issue.

"World Food Day is an occasion for all to reflect on what has undermined people's access to adequately nutritious food and resulted in the geographic and demographic incidence of food scarcity. It should also be an occasion to make a meaningful commitment to helping those struggling with hunger and malnutrition,” HRCP said.

Ali Khan of the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Islamabad told DW that the UN was working with the Pakistani government on various projects dealing with food shortages and rising food prices in Pakistan.

"At the moment, about 868 million people in the world have little access to food," he said. "One in eight people is either malnourished or is getting unhealthy food. Pakistan's situation is no different."

Access to food is a constitutional right

Meanwhile, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari vowed that his government would deal with the issue on an emergency basis. In a public message issued on World Food Day, he said he had directed the food and agriculture ministry to formulate a "comprehensive national policy" to improve the agricultural sector. He said that the Pakistani people had a constitutional right to access food.

However, HRCP Chairperson Zohra Yusuf said she doubted the government was sincere. She said "land reforms" were urgent and pointed out that Pakistani farmers were being exploited by the authorities. "They don't give them their rightful dues. This has resulted in apathy among farmers and subsequent food shortages. You need to give incentives to farmers and those associated with agriculture to motivate them."

She also said that Pakistan should learn from the experience and expertise of other countries in overcoming food shortages and reforming the agricultural sector. More