Climate change exacerbates malnutrition in Pakistan

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is a country with a unique culture and diverse landscape. However, it is also one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world.

“The country is facing several socioeconomic challenges, including food insecurity, chronic malnutrition and climate change,” said Shabnam Baloch, Country Director of the International Rescue Committee, which responds to world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people to survive and rebuild their lives.

Talking to media, she said the 2022 floods had worsened the nutrition crisis in Pakistan. “The floods have displaced millions of people and destroyed crops and livestock, thus exacerbating the already high rates of malnutrition. As of June 2023, a staggering 10.5 million people in 43 districts across Pakistan are facing acute food insecurity.” Shabnam Baloch pointed out that the growing occurrence and heightened intensity of natural disasters in Pakistan could be attributed to climate change. She added that this, coupled with the country’s conventional governance systems ill-prepared to handle such emergencies, presented a substantial challenge for Pakistan. Baloch emphasised that the nutrition crisis was a ticking time bomb that required comprehensive interventions and immediate attention.

“The government and international community must work together to address the root causes of the crisis and provide the necessary food and nutrition assistance to those affected.” The 2022 monsoon season was one of the most severe in Pakistan’s history, with Sindh and Balochistan receiving up to 600-700% more rainfall than usual. The floods affected over 33 million people across 94 districts, killing 1,739 and displacing 20.6 million, including 9.6 million children.

The most vulnerable districts were hit the hardest, with many already facing deprivation. She said, “Climate change as a global crisis is amplifying the frequency and severity of natural disasters, thereby compounding the challenges faced by Pakistan.”

She added that to effectively tackle these challenges, Pakistan must embrace a comprehensive approach that integrates systems thinking, indigenous wisdom and diversity. Systems thinking, a methodology acknowledging the interdependence of various factors, enables a more profound grasp of intricate problems. Indigenous knowledge, comprising wisdom and practices honed by local communities over generations, holds significant potential in addressing Pakistan’s pressing issues. The diverse tapestry of cultures, perspectives, and experiences within society can serve as a wellspring of strength and innovation.