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, a 2018 national nutrition survey showed that 60 percent of the population still faces food insecurity. This is due primarily to limited economic access by the poorest and most vulnerable – particularly women – to an adequate and diverse diet. The survey also showed that that 15 percent of children under 5 suffer from acute malnutrition, the second highest rate in the region. Close to 44 percent of children in the same age group are stunted, 32 percent are underweight and the majority of children under 2 consume less than half of their daily energy requirements, with low levels of vitamins and minerals.
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
Humanitarian responseWFP 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.
NutritionWFP 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.
ResilienceWFP 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.
Disaster preparednessWFP 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.
Social ProtectionWorking 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.