An article by Amir Murtaza published by the Asian Human Rights Commission

During past week, I have traveled in interior parts of Sindh province and collected information about extraordinary human and financial losses, caused by heavy monsoon rains. While talking to local media, they had confirmed the death of at least 220 people, including children, during the heavy rains. Additionally, media and government agencies mentioned that torrential rains have affected 5 million people, including thousands of very little children, across the Sindh province.

Sattar Bukhari, a local social worker, informed that the provincial government has established relief camps at various places to provide temporary shelter to the affected population. However, he observed that due to huge displacement these camps are insufficient to accommodate the affected population. He pointed out that food, drinking water and medicines are the most urgent required things for the affected population.

Mohammad Anwar, an international development expert, informed that disasters such as heavy rains, floods and storms are increasing day by day and therefore, such climate change has worsened the already adverse conditions, in many developing and poor countries, including Pakistan. He observed that poor population is the hardest affected segment of the society and catastrophic consequences of climate change, such as food security, are now quite visible in this country.

The World Food Program (WPF) has explained that ”food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food, and to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” Sana Irfan, a development economist, informed that food scarcity is not an issue of much concern in Pakistan as all kind of food is available in abundance in every part of the country. However, she added that increasing food prices and people’s decreasing purchasing power are certainly very valid issue in this part of the globe. She further mentioned that in disaster like situation the phenomenon of food shortage has become much intense and affected the most vulnerable segment of the population, notably children. She asserted that it is the prime responsibility of the State to protect its citizens, including children, from hunger.

Pakistan has signed and ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and Article 24 and 27 mentioned that, ”States Parties shall pursue full implementation of [the child’s right to the highest attainable standard of health] and … shall take appropriate measures … to combat disease and malnutrition … through the provision of adequate nutritious foods…. States Parties recognize the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development…. States Parties … shall … in case of need provide material assistance and support …, particularly with regard to nutrition, clothing and housing.”

I met with Mai Nooran during my journey from Hyderabad to Tando Allahyar and Mirpurkhas. She was traveling on a donkey cart along with her husband and five children. She said that severe rain has forced her family to vacate their muddy house and take shelter in any government relief camp. Mai Nooran said that due to severe weather availability of basic food for her five children, two boys and three girls, was the main cause of her decision to take refuge in relief camp. I was really shocked to see her very week children and one child, named Azam, told me that, “in normal days my mother gives me food twice a day but in present disaster like situation we have been out of food for last three days.”

Dr. Irum Maqsood said that undernourishment is the status of people whose food intake does not include enough calories to meet minimum human body needs. She further explained that insufficient quantity and quality of food has adverse affects on human health and growth, both physically and psychologically.

Dr. Irum Maqsood also provided some data, and according to World Child Hunger Facts, ”poor nutrition plays a role in at least half of the 10.9 million child deaths each year—over five million deaths (UNICEF 2008, p 1)”. Children who are poorly nourished suffer up to 160 days of illness each year. In developing countries, almost one out of every 15 children will die before they reach the age of five (derived from UNICEF 2008 Summary table 1 p. 117).

Dr. Ali Murtaza, a community medicine specialist in Karachi, informed that quite a significant number of children in Pakistan remained malnourished and failed to achieve the height and weight for their age. He added that this situation further deteriorated in disaster situations. He further informed that a recent survey conducted by UNICEF in interior of Sindh province revealed an acute malnutrition rate of 23.1% among children between six months and five years. The rate is well above the WHO emergency threshold of 15%, which requires an urgent humanitarian response.

Dr. Iftikhar Ahmed, a staff member of an international organization, observed that due to huge number of children in relief camps, it has become really difficult for the authorities to provide adequate nutrition and balanced diet to children of all age groups. He informed that provision of balanced food in adequate quantity is essential to ensure proper nourishment for all age groups especially children. It is a known fact that a fully nourished child is less likely to suffer from various diseases and will live a healthy and fulfilling life.

Abdul Qadir Bullo, President Social Research and Development Organization (SRDO), has been helping the rain affected population in Sindh province, for last several days. He observed that dearth of a proper and healthy food, in poor rural households, has been an issue of concern for a long time; however, he maintained that present inflationary trends, lack of government subsidies and frequent disaster like situation has made significant constraints on availability of food for poor people in Pakistan, including Sindh province.

The President of SRDO further said that due to heavy rains and flood like situation many families reported that adequate food is not available for their children. He added that children’s right to get adequate food should be supported, protected and promoted in every situation. He observed that government; corporate sector, relief and development organizations, political parties and communities must play their due role in this regard.

It is a bitter fact that Pakistan stands at the upper echelon on the index of food insecure countries. Frequent disasters in past few years have enhanced the importance of adequate food for the vulnerable population, notably children; however, a clear lack in policy formulation process, resources and implementation mechanism have made it difficult to protect and promote children’s right to adequate food, especially in disaster situation. It is high time that government and civil society organizations should work in tandem and supplement each other’s work with a view to minimize human miseries and sufferings.


The views shared in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the AHRC, and the AHRC takes no responsibility for them.

About the Author:
Mr. Amir Murtaza is a researcher and can be reached at

Document ID :AHRC-ETC-042-2011
Countries : Pakistan
Date : 15-09-2011