Over the years, Pakistan has become a food surplus country and a major producer of wheat which it distributes to needy populations through various mechanisms, including the World Food Programme (WFP).
However, the national nutrition survey 2018 showed that 36.9 percent of the population faces food insecurity. Primarily, this is due to limited economic access by the poorest and most vulnerable group of the population – particularly women – to an adequate and diverse diet. The survey also showed the second highest rate of malnutrition in the region with 18 percent of children under 5 suffer from acute malnutrition, around 40 percent of the children in the same age group are stunted and 29 percent are underweight. All complementary feeding indicators are far below acceptable levels, only one in seven children aged 6–23 months receives a meal with minimum dietary diversity, with at least four diﬀerent food groups, and around 82% children are deprived of the minimum number of the meals a day.
An average Pakistani household spends 50.8 percent of monthly income on food. This makes them particularly vulnerable to shocks, including high food prices. The impact of climate change and population displacements exacerbate the situation.
As a result of social and cultural norms and practices, women and girls face difficulties accessing humanitarian assistance and services. Girls’ access to education, especially in areas bordering Afghanistan (the newly merged regions of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa - KP) and Baluchistan, remains a challenge. There is a strong correlation between girls’ level of education and all forms of undernutrition (stunting, wasting, and underweight). Nationwide, 7.3 million children of primary school age are not enrolled, 57 percent of whom are girls.
WFP’s work in Pakistan aligns with the Government’s priorities as defined in its Vision 2025 and as has been further highlighted with respect to malnutrition and reducing rates of stunting by Prime Minister Imran Khan, elected in 2018. WFP supports Government-led efforts to improve food and nutrition security among vulnerable communities in response to the effects of recurring human and climatic events; work with communities in the most hazard-prone parts of the country to build resilience; address malnutrition; and create an enabling environment for women to achieve social and economic equality.
WFP is also working hand in hand with the Government of Pakistan to build capacity at national and provincial levels to develop multi-sectorial policies and strategies fully aligned with the Scaling-Up Nutrition (SUN) approach, partner on research initiatives in the areas of food security, join in cash-based welfare programs and provide expertise on disaster risk reduction, health and emergency preparedness and response.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Pakistan
WFP partners with the Government of Pakistan by providing humanitarian and recovery assistance to meet the basic food and nutrition needs of the most vulnerable populations both during and in the aftermath of disasters.
WFP Pakistan continues to improve nutrition through governance, advocacy, policy support, programmes, fortification, evidence generation and innovation. This includes interventions to treat acute malnutrition and prevent stunting in children under 5; working with the National and Provincial Fortification Alliances to push forward the rice and chakki wheat flour fortification agenda; and promoting innovative approaches including the stunting prevention model.
WFP provides cash and food assistance in exchange for participation in the construction and rehabilitation of community assets that can support food security, such as water harvesting systems, feeder roads, water channels, schools and other infrastructure, in areas affected by droughts or floods, or where displaced people are returning.
WFP provides capacity strengthening and technical assistance in disaster preparedness and response at the federal and provincial levels, community-based disaster risk management, school safety, multi-hazard vulnerability risk assessment, supply chain management, the design and implementation of a commodity management system, and a beneficiary feedback hotline.
Working in close coordination with the Benazir Income Support Group (BISP) and the Department of Education, an education support programme will provide a cash transfer with a view to increase school participation (enrollment, attendance and retention) and reduce gender disparity in secondary education. The programme will also provide behavior change communication on dietary diversity and healthy diets in schools.