Neva Khan of the charity Oxfam says that in Pakistan, “millions of people are still facing flood water, shivering in temporary shelters and struggling to find food…we have only scratched the surface of human need.”
Children are suffering the most, and malnutrition is devastating Pakistan. Karen Allen, UNICEF officer in Pakistan, describes the crisis. She says, “I haven’t seen levels of malnutrition this bad since the worst of the famines in Ethiopia, Darfur and Chad. It’s shocking, shockingly bad.”
Pakistan was ravaged by massive flooding last summer. Millions of people were impacted. It’s critical to note that even before the flooding took place, hunger and poverty afflicted most of the population, and their suffering was compounded by the conflict between the government and Taliban/extremist forces. Thus, child malnutrition levels within Pakistan have increased.
UNICEF Pakistan Chief of Communication Kristen Elsby says, “We’re seeing a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions right now. Millions of children are greatly at risk from malnutrition. Babies are dying and mothers are at risk of dying during childbirth.”
Children who lack food in their first years of life will suffer irreversible physical and mental damage. It is therefore critical that infant feeding programs are fully funded and foods delivered to those in need. Inadequate sanitation and lack of hygiene spread disease and contribute to malnutrition. So does lack of education. UNICEF says that “due to poverty and lack of education, especially in rural areas, parents often do not recognize the symptoms of malnutrition. They have come to regard small, stunted children as the norm.”
Oxfam says the UN appeal for $2 billion to rebuild Pakistan remains only 56 percent funded. The UN World Food Programme is over $200 million short of funding for its emergency food assistance plan for Pakistan. So what you see happening in Pakistan is rising malnutrition and decreasing donor interest in feeding and rebuilding the country.
WFP, along with UNICEF and other partners, needs funding to provide food to malnourished children under five and high energy biscuits to older children. WFP reports it has developed its own locally-produced highly nutritious product—Wawa Mum—and needs support to scale up its production.
The international community has not made fighting hunger and malnutrition a top priority. This failure tragically shows itself once again as malnutrition affects the vulnerable children of Pakistan.
Visit the World Food Programme’s Pakistan page.