Following a visit to Pakistan, the head of the UN food agency today urged a renewed effort to address the food and nutrition needs of people affected by displacement, natural disasters and poverty.
“Pakistan is a country of such rich potential, but development is shackled by the struggle of the most vulnerable to meet their daily food needs, and by the long-term impact of under-nutrition,” UN World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director Ertharin Cousin said at the end of a two-day visit to the South Asian country.
About half of Pakistan’s population is not food secure, up from a little over one-third a decade ago, according to WFP. Fifteen per cent of children are severely malnourished, and some 40 per cent suffer from stunted growth.
Noting that food security and good nutrition are “the bedrock of progress,” Ms. Cousin said her visit reaffirmed WFP’s commitment to work with the Government of Pakistan to achieve the goals of eliminating chronic malnutrition and food insecurity.
Within those efforts, the UN agency is ready to support the Government in forming a national policy which would require all wheat flour sold commercially to be fortified with key micronutrients, Ms. Cousin said.
WFP is also working closely with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and local partners to improve emergency preparedness and response capacity.
The Government of Pakistan donated 75,000 metric tons of wheat earlier this year to WFP operations in the country, but the UN agency needs $9 million up to October to transport and distribute the grain.
In addition, the food agency requested a further $40 million to fully implement its operations in the country through the end of the year.
During her trip, Ms. Cousin visited WFP projects in the northern cities of Mingora and Kalam, both of which help to ensure proper nutrition and a healthy diet amongst those affected by displacement and natural disasters.
She also visited a centre treating acute malnutrition in Pakistan's Swat Valley. WFP provides emergency food rations to about 1 million people temporarily displaced by unrest in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. While there, Ms. Cousin met with the Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Peshawar.
She also met with counterparts in the Ministry of Food Security, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Economic Affairs Division.