In 2008, I met a Hindu family in a desert area of Pakistan’s Sindh province. The family was ‘food insecure’: meaning they didn’t have enough to eat. Mangal Ram, who was the family head with seven children, told me that whenever his kids asked for more food, he would make empty promises. That was the year when there were 77 millions ‘food insecure’ people in Pakistan, according to the World Food Program. That was also the year when I hadn’t heard of Muslims celebrating the birth of Prophet Muhammad by cutting a cake.
Today things have changed for the people in Mangal Ram’s club. The population of ‘food insecure’ people in Pakistan is estimated to be 90 million, a little more than half of it’s population. And the cakes are getting bigger: 5,000 pounds according to a local report.
In Pakistan, that and many other stories are the reflection of the widening gap between those who ‘have’ and those ‘who will never have’.
In a recent chat, the World Food Program’s country representative in Pakistan, Jean-Luc Siblot, told me that children under the age of five are bearing the major brunt of this food insecurity. He said if their bodies don’t get nutritioned well in the first two years since their birth, their brains don’t develop as much as the healthy kids’ brains do. And if you look at it scientifically, he said, those ‘malnutritioned’ brains are 40 percent less developed than healthy brains. And what’s worse is that this damage is irreversible. Siblot said that mean’s you can feed them with the best food in the world, but their brains will never develop.
The population of those children in Pakistan is about 15 percent of the population of children under 5 years of age.
What surprises me the most is that this is happening in a country that claims to produce enough wheat for its entire population. According to one report, Pakistan is the sixth largest wheat producer in the world.
So what’s the problem or problems? Poverty, bad wealth distribution, horrible security, terrible infrastructure and so on.
And to solve these problems, Pakistan’s government and the people have to take serious steps to stop this deteriorating trend. And to take those steps the country has to have political and economic stability. Or else, the cakes will keep getting bigger and the Rams will be thinner.