Flood driven food insecurity in Pakistan

By: Amina Rathore

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Pakistan, a country blessed with productive agricultural lands, has suffered consistently by recurring risk of flooding. Floods have become synonymous with adversity in Pakistan, particularly for rural communities in Baluchistan, Sindh, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. These natural disasters not only ravage homes and livelihoods but also sow the seeds of food insecurity, plunging millions into hunger and despair. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, ‘Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.’ Unfortunately, the shades of nature in Pakistan are stained with dull tones of devastation. Pakistan is most vulnerable state toward climate change. The effect of high temperature and dynamic weather patterns becoming more devastating, aggravating the intensity of such calamities. Due to heavy floods in Pakistan, people have lost their lives, homes demolished and agricultural lands diminished beneath the deluge. These devastations serve as a stark reminder of the urgent need to address the nexus between natural disasters and food security in Pakistan.

According to World Bank report, flood has caused an average annual economic loss of $1.2 billion in Pakistan over past two decades, infrastructure destroyed which make the distribution of food aid challenging. Agriculture is one of the most affected sectors in Pakistan due to climate-induced disasters. The country has been regularly experiencing unusual precipitations, temperature rise, floods, and droughts for the past two decades that have not only affected per acre yield but also disrupted the sowing and harvesting seasons. Since, over 65 percent of country’s population lives in rural areas and depends on agriculture for their livelihoods, the climate change has rendered large number of villagers jobless. According to UNDP, Due to adverse impact of flood 4.3 million people lost their jobs. This huge destruction not only challenging for economic well-being but also have crucial concerns towards societal unrest. In the wake of current climate crisis, the prices of vegetables, fruits and agri by-products have risen exponentially. The share of agriculture sector that stood at 25% of GDP is now gradually shrinking. According to UNICEF report,84 districts of Pakistan being affected by 2022 flood, with nearly affecting 3.5 million Children. According to NDMA, since 2010, over 22 million people had affected by floods and agricultural sector had damage of approximately $18 billion.

Flood not only damage agricultural structure but it has worse effect on food supply chain. Due to destroyed infrastructure which is crucial for distribution of food, making impossible to transport food in areas where it is needed and the affordability of essential food items has become a distant dream for many. It leads to food shortage and increase in prices of goods having direct effect on economy. After the 2022 floods, prices of various commodities were highly affected, the prices of onion had risen dramatically. These prices had not only affected household budget but also created hurdles for businessmen and policymakers struggling to alleviate the economic aftermath of floods.

Due to heavy floods the land of crops undergoes a transformation into devastated land, leading toward severe nutrition crisis. Today intense nutrition crisis is being faced by our country. The toll exacted by the floods is staggering, leaving approximately 33 million people affected and vast swathes of agricultural land submerged. The destruction of crops, livestock, and infrastructure has dealt a severe blow to Pakistan’s already fragile food security landscape. Sindh province, known for its agricultural prowess, has borne the brunt of the devastation, with significant losses in crop yields exacerbating the plight of already vulnerable communities. Even after the flood, food insecurity haunts millions of people in Pakistan. In search of shelter, affected families forced to leave their places and face challenges for survival. People seek temporary refuge in over-crowded camps, and new challenges arise for access to clean water and nutritious food. This crisis has harsh impact on the most vulnerable group, that are children. Due to malnutrition, their growth inhibits which have harsh effect on their futures. Due to the shortage of food Pregnant women and aged people, as already at risk, are further marginalized. The poverty cycle strengthens its grip in country. The economic fallout of the floods further compounds the challenges faced by Pakistan.

Pakistan’s heavy reliance on agriculture underscores the urgency of addressing the challenges posed by floods. Not only does agriculture contribute significantly to the country’s GDP, but it also serves as a lifeline for millions of Pakistanis, providing employment and sustenance. However, the devastation wrought by floods threatens to unravel decades of progress, necessitating immediate action to rebuild and fortify the agricultural sector. Collaborative efforts on multiple fronts are required to address the root causes of flood-driven food insecurity.

As we confront the immediate fallout of the floods, it is imperative to adopt a multifaceted approach that addresses both short-term relief efforts and long-term resilience-building measures. Investments in resilient agricultural practices, infrastructure development, and disaster preparedness are paramount to mitigating the impact of future disasters that may hamper food security. Additionally, addressing the root causes of vulnerability, such as poverty and inequitable access to resources, is essential for building resilient food systems that can withstand the ravages of nature. Immediate actions such as providing food aid, implementing nutrition programs, and delivering emergency assistance are imperative to address the immediate needs of affected individuals and communities. By enhancing the resilience of agricultural systems to withstand flooding and other climate-related challenges, the nation can better safeguard its food supply in the face of future disasters. Moreover, fostering collaboration among government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and international entities is crucial for effective implementation and sustained support for vulnerable populations. Through these concerted efforts, Pakistan can work towards reducing the devastating impact of floods on food security and enhancing the overall resilience of its communities. Improving access to food is another key strategy. This involves not only increasing food production but also ensuring equitable distribution and access to nutritious food for all segments of the population, especially those most vulnerable to food insecurity. Implementing policies that support small-scale farmers, improving market infrastructure, and enhancing social safety nets can all contribute to this goal.

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