Pakistan continues to be subject to considerable socio-political, economic and environmental volatility and in 2010 experienced its worst natural disaster in living memory to be followed yet again by torrential rain flooding in 2011. The 2010 flood was a crisis of an unprecedented proportion, submerging almost one-fifth of the country's total landmass. The government estimates that some 20 million people across the country were affected by the crisis, of which more than 10 million were found to be in need of immediate assistance. The recent floods added to the woes of the already fragile state of the country. Sindh and Balochistan were the ones that suffered yet again, the water killing many and affecting 5.6 million people.
At the same time, the effects of militant extremism can still be felt in the north-west, exacting a heavy social and financial toll in Pakistan. Economic turbulence, power shortages and high food and fuel prices exacerbate instability, with unemployment on the increase and wage levels unable to keep pace with inflation rates. An average household spends almost 70% of its income on food leaving only 30% to cover their essential needs of education, health etc.
One result of these recurrent natural and man-made crises has been a sharp decline in food security across the country, despite sufficient national food production to meet the needs of Pakistan's 170 million people. By 2010, almost 50 percent of the population, or 83 million people, were food insecure, up from 38 percent in 2003. In the aftermath of the 2010 flooding, it is believed that this figure may have risen to upwards of 90 million and yet more after the recent floods.
Similarly, disparities in socio-economic indicators between rural and urban populations have continued to widen, and progress in narrowing the gender gap remains limited. Women face considerable difficulties in finding employment and accessing education opportunities, particularly in areas where insecurity constrains mobility. Recent assessments show no improvement in Pakistan's 57 percent literacy rate and worryingly poor nutritional indicators recorded in the recently launched nutrition survey: including 15.1 percent wasting among children aged 6-59 months, with levels of stunting and underweight at 43.7 and 31.5 percent respectively. One third of all child deaths are associated with malnutrition, and micronutrient deficiencies are widespread. An estimated 51 percent of women and 62.5 percent of children under five are anaemic.