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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Pakistan faces high levels of food insecurity: World Bank

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has reported that over 1.2 million hectares of agricultural land in Sindh has been damaged, which will have catastrophic impacts on livelihoods and food production in the region. 

According to the World Bank report “Food Security Update”, the flooding has exacerbated previously high levels of food insecurity in Pakistan, where it is estimated that 4.66 million people faced crisis conditions or worse (IPC Phase 3 or above) from October 2021 to March and April 2022.

Beginning mid-June 2022, heavy monsoon rainfall–induced flooding has damaged infrastructure and led to casualties in Pakistan. According to Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority, 33 million people have been affected since September 6 in 81 districts of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Balochistan, Gilgit Baltistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, and Sindh. Significantly higher rainfall than the 30-year average has severely damaged agricultural lands, livestock assets, forests, and agricultural infrastructure. Rural communities, which rely on agriculture and livestock for their livelihoods, are among the hardest hit.

Read more: Flash floods and food shortages: issuing import permits for onions and tomatoes

The Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED) reports heavy damage to transport infrastructure, which immediately reduced food access in affected areas and increased food prices. Communities in Balochistan and Sindh that ACTED’s teams have assessed have reported no access to food and, in some cases, no access to local markets. In addition, the OCHA Humanitarian Advisory Team in Pakistan estimates that 73 percent of households in areas with flooding have inadequate resources to buy food.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has reported that over 1.2 million hectares of agricultural land in Sindh has been damaged, which will have catastrophic impacts on livelihoods and food production in the region. Although more accurate estimates of the extent of the damage are forthcoming, a recent study used remote sensing technology to estimate production losses in the Sindh region of 193 tons of rice (80 per cent of total production), 3.1 million bales of cotton (88 per cent of total production), and 10.5 million tons of sugarcane (66 per cent of total production).

Moreover, multiple shocks including high food and fuel prices, drought, livestock diseases, and widespread loss of income-generating opportunities due to the impacts of COVID-19 had previously driven food insecurity in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkwa, and Sindh provinces. According to the FAO, of the 1.9 million people in need of food security and agricultural assistance in the affected districts, nearly 510,000 are a step away from catastrophic food insecurity.

The frequency and intensity of extreme climate events is projected to increase, increasing disaster risks, particularly for vulnerable poor and minority groups. An increase in the number of people affected by flooding is projected as well, with a likely increase of approximately 5 million people exposed to extreme river floods between 2035–2044 and a potential increase of approximately one million annually exposed to coastal flooding between 2070–2100. As such, these projections suggest yield declines in many key food and cash crops, including cotton, wheat, sugarcane, maize, and rice.

Food assistance and livelihood support to smallholder farmers and livestock keepers in affected regions is essential to mitigate the impacts of flooding on food insecurity in Pakistan. According to the OCHA, lead agencies in the food security and agricultural sector have provided relief food assistance and livelihood support for nearly 410,000 people in Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, and Sindh, including food assistance for up to 117,000 people in Sindh.

The government of Pakistan’s immediate response was to earmark US$173 million in cash transfers to 1.5 million flood-affected families. Together with the United Nations, the government also launched a multi-sectoral flood response program to support 5.2 million people over the next 6 months. This plan, estimated to cost US$160.3 million, includes measures to restore crop- and livestock-based livelihood activities for the next planting season and support nutrition interventions.