Hardly anyone bothers to look at the state of malnutrition and its implications and solutions in the country.
Making malnutrition a political agenda poses the biggest challenge to the country. Though right to food is a comprehensive concept, it should not only be restricted to children. Community engagement that focuses on malnutrition can be one of sustainable sources of solution to malnutrition problem.
If malnutrition becomes the entry point for focusing on all other problems, the issue can somewhat be approachable. Even those who are illiterate can analyse their own reality.
The National Nutrition Survey of 2011 states that about two-fifths of the households in Pakistan were food secure while 10 percent experienced severe hunger and 20 per cent faced moderate hunger. The report also goes on to share the qualitative study of dietary diversity that shows little consumption of foods other than the main staple, wheat. “The use of chutney, made with salt and raw chillies, and sweetened black tea is common in rural and urban sites as accompaniments,” states the report. “Milk, if available, might be added to the tea.”
During the 2009 floods of Jaffarabad and adjoining areas, the amount of food in the relief package was reduced and more tea was added to it. For workers, a roti and a cup of tea is the way to start their long working hours.
Cash transfer programs with the likes of Benazir Income Support Program is proving to be a flop at a huge expense to the exchequer; it is hardly helping in reducing poverty and hunger.
The ‘Life in a Time of Food Price Volatility report states that the respondents of the survey eat better on days when they receive their BISP payment but the program is unable to help combat hungry days at other times.
The report further goes on to say that in rural areas, hunger, for the most part, occurs in lean season or when harvested grain runs out. It adds that while urban households are ‘somewhat better off than their rural counterparts in terms of work opportunities, the poorest here also experience hunger at least on some days’. “In fact, their risk of hunger is spread more evenly across the year with hungry days occurring due to lack of cash on a day-to-day basis,” it states.
Malnutrition being a hidden hunger problem is based on the underlying assumption that better employment opportunities and education could be the solution to the problem.