Right to Food – Flood Victims under Famine Threat in Pakistan

The 2010 monsoon in Pakistan caused one-fifth (307,374 sq mi) of the country to be submerged under flood water, destroying a great portion of the country’s major crop growing land. The flood caused massive food shortage in the country, causing the prices of staple food to skyrocket and out of the reach of the average person, particularly the flood victims. The already burdened economy of the country took a hit of another $43 billion approximately, sending the aftershocks of the devastation into the year 2012. The rising inflation and declining value of the Pakistani currency has added to the miseries of the flood victims as they are unable to afford basic food items. Sen says that in the face of crises like famine, “the focus should be on the economic power and substantive freedom of individuals and families to buy enough food1”; The government of Pakistan, however, lacks any solid relief plan to help the flood victims in these crises and the so called ‘Benazir Income Support Program2’ is only supporting the people along the political party lines. On top of that, the feudal societal structure of the country discourages the ‘endowment’ of the resources by the poor. Although Universal Declaration on the Eradication of Hunger and Malnutrition recognizes that “Every man, woman and child has the inalienable right to be free from hunger and malnutrition in order to develop fully and maintain their physical and mental faculties ………..and it is a fundamental responsibility of Governments to work together for higher food production and a more equitable and efficient distribution of food between countries and within countries3”, we see no short or long-term national or international aid program to ensure this basic human right. Economic and physical “accessibility4” as required by the article 11 of The Right to Adequate Food is not ensured and according to Wolfgang Herbinger, director of the World Food Program (WFP) in Pakistan, due to excessive wheat buying by the Government of Pakistan, now ordinary consumers pay double the price for wheat compared to three years ago and the food security situation has “changed dramatically”, forcing people to take out loans to pay for their food5. To prevent famine and food shortages, Sen says that “attention has to be paid to the need for incentives to generate the growth of outputs and income.6” It is, therefore, important that national and international bodies work in coherence to offer long term output and income growth initiatives before a frontline nation in the war of terror slips into even major economic problems.

  1. Amartya Sen “Development as Freedom”. Chapter 7 “Famines and the Other Crises”. P. 161
  2. Benazir Income Support Program – Government of Pakistan. http://www.bisp.gov.pk/
  3. Universal Declaration on the Eradication of Hunger and Malnutrition. Adopted on 16 November 1974 by the World Food Conference convened under General Assembly resolution 3180 (XXVIII) of 17 December 1973; and endorsed by General Assembly resolution 3348 (XXIX) of 17 December 1974
  4. United Nations Economic and Social Council, The right to adequate food (Art.11) : . 05/12/1999
  5. Pakistan food prices too high: UN food relief agency. http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110323/wl_sthasia_afp/pakistanunfloodsfoodfarmrelief
  6. Amartya Sen “Development as Freedom”. Chapter 7 “Famines and the Other Crises”. P. 177

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