A comparison of Food Crises between East Africa and Thar Desert in Pakistan
It is obvious that the world is experiencing a tremendous population explosion and according to UN estimates world’s current population in October 2018 is 7.7 billion. Therefore feeding billions of people is perhaps the biggest challenge for the international community which requires a coherent strategy in order to have sustainable and equitable food security. The term food security is defined as “the availability of food and one’s access to it.” World Food Summit of 1996 defines food security as “when all people at all times have access to sufficient safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy active life.” One reason for decline in crop yield in many parts of the world is due to decline in investments in research and infrastructure. However, competition for land, water and over exploitation of fisheries is currently reducing the ability to produce food. Experts are of the view that in some regions of the world factors such as the climate change and HIV/AIDS are also affecting food security.
Unfortunately some parts of the world are experiencing more hunger problems than the rest of the world. Millions of people are perishing owing to starvation and disease in East Africa, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. The reason for chronic hunger problems in East Africa are mostly because of violent conflict. Only a few farmers under such circumstances are able to harvest a crop which causes shortage of food and high food prices. An estimated 22 million people in East Africa need assistance so that they can secure their livelihoods and eventually get access to sufficient amount of food. Violent conflict in Ethiopia coupled with drought, lack of government and community assistance and an authoritarian corrupt regime has resulted in the loss of lives owing to starvation.
Pakistan unfortunately has been ranked as the second largest country in Asia on the Global Hunger Index in 2017. Afghanistan takes the lead in being the country with the worst food security in Asia with India as the third largest Asian country on the GHI score. India has a tremendous population which results in hunger problems whereas food insecurity in Afghanistan is caused by prolonged violent conflict. However, Pakistan is an agricultural state with two large democratic parties whose leaders are accused of amassing State wealth for themselves. Resultantly millions especially in the Thar Desert are forced to live below the poverty line. Thar is the ninth largest desert in Asia however the total area of the district Tharparkar is 20578.sq.km. Thar is experiencing a long drought followed by famine. The inhabitants of Thar have no access to clean drinking water hence after covering a long distance they are able to fetch dirty water. According to an estimate approximately 840,000 people are killed owing to water borne diseases. Economists contend two theories to examine the causes of famine the Food Availability Decline Theory FAD and Amrita Sen’s Entitlement Approach. According to the FAD theory natural disasters can cause famine. However if there is no shortage of food in the rest of the country food can be transported to effected area. The other theory suggests that food availability is not the real issue the real problem causing famine is the distribution of wealth. In light of Sen’s theory the real reason for famine in Thar Desert is corruption and embezzlement on the part of successive governments.
The PMLN‘s government had allocated Rs 50 billion for PM’s Sustainable Development Goals Achievement program to improve the social indicators across the country. However, these funds were instead directed to the development schemes launched for PMLN’s members of the national Assembly. Moreover, PPP’s government in Sindh also shares a fair amount of blame for attempting to make Thar even worse than Ethiopia. PPP‘s Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto despite making tall claims have failed to administer the province. According to Skeptics the Sindh government is accused of launching several faulty development projects which helped the ruling elite to amass wealth for themselves. One of the biggest drawbacks in the Pakistan’s political system is that politicians are only accountable in theory but not in practice. Bilawal Bhutto by spending millions and millions of rupees on the famous Sindh Festival has inadvertently starved millions to death in the Thar Desert. Moreover, a whopping sum of Rs 25 million was issued by the finance department for the recurring cost on Z.A Bhutto’s 37th death anniversary. The food crisis in Thar Desert is worsening as Sindh government continues to misuse public funds. It is obvious that famine is caused by natural disaster however by transporting food lives can still be saved from perishing. What is common between the food crisis of Ethiopia and Sindh is that both these places have corrupt authoritarian regimes. The PPP government for the most part has proved to be an authoritarian corrupt regime whose leaders are governed by their feudal instincts. Ethiopia continues to suffer from hunger problems owing to violent conflict and corrupt regimes. However, Thar is even worse than Ethiopia as people in this desert are starving mainly due to starvation and disease in the absence of any armed conflict. These people could have been saved from perishing if the former Government in general and Sindh the Government in particular was not that corrupt. It is high time that the new government takes notice of the troubled situation of Thar in order to prove that it is a true democratic government.
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