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Caritas campaigns as food shortages spread

Government told it must act fast

Bakers making roti, the staple bread of Pakistan Bakers making roti, the staple bread of Pakistan
  • ucanews.com reporter, Khanewal
  • Pakistan
  • October 17, 2012
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Caritas Pakistan yesterday called for swift government action to end food shortages.  The Church’s social arm says the shortages are putting a growing number of the country’s population at risk.

The call came amid farmers' protests led by Caritas in two Punjab districts yesterday.

“The government has to get serious if it wishes to end food shortages. We demand long-term subsidies to farmers of all agriculture products,” said Samuel Clement, director of Caritas Pakistan Multan.

“They should also be involved in decision making forums,” he added.

The protesting farmers in Khanewal district said high fertilizer prices, low returns on cotton and wheat crops, electricity blackouts and a lack of proper irrigation all contributed to low crop yields.

Churchmen say food donations have dropped as poverty widens and supplies get scarcer.

“Christian families used to offer at least forty kilograms of wheat annually to the Church. Now it has decreased to ten or twenty kilograms. Also the donating of sheep and goats is almost non-existent,” said Father Shahzad Niamat, a Khanewal parish priest.

According to a national nutrition survey last year, up to 58 percent of the country’s population suffers from food insecurity.

“Of the total affected population, 29.6 percent suffered from hunger or severe hunger,”  Mir Israrullah Zehri, Minister for National Food Security and Research, told senators earlier this week.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan also expressed alarm over food scarcity and its impact on the poor.

“Price rises have gravely affected access to food and nutrition, not just for the poor but also for the large middle-income segment of the population,"  said the Commission's Zohra Yusuf on Monday.

The problems associated with food scarcity in Pakistan are structural and have links with issues such as land holdings, tenants’ rights and the shortage of essential necessities farmers need, she said.

“Successive governments have been exceptionally unimaginative in addressing food scarcity,"  she added.
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