Ramification of Food Insecurity in Pakistan: Policy Recommendations and Way Forward

Abstract: Pakistan is experiencing one of the most challenging periods in its history. During the last two decades, Pakistan’s food security has been under persistent danger. The purpose of this research is to examine the impact of food insecurity and to look into the pillars of food security in Pakistan. This study asserts that Pakistan needs to concentrate on alternate food security solutions. This paper includes a thorough overview of the current situation in Pakistan, including the accumulation of these policies and coping strategies. This article concludes with the idea that Pakistan should consider other options to improve its skills and deal with the problem.COVID-19, a recent epidemic, has posed significant problems to Pakistan’s food security. The necessity of ensuring food security and livelihoods has also increased. Because logistical difficulties may pose a threat to the food supply, it’s critical to take steps to improve crop yields, which will help to mitigate COVID-19’s socioeconomic impact. The purpose of this paper is to inject some new ideas into the discourse about food security problems. It highlights the limits of previous policy responses and proposes a new path to improve the current bleak situation.


Food insecurity is one of the most significant global issues of the twenty-first century. Food insecurity occurs when people do not have consistent physical or economic access to enough safe, nutritious, and beneficial food to maintain their health. Food insecurity is a multifaceted issue that includes economic, political, demographic,social,cultural, and technical factors. Food insecurity is much more than just a lack of food on the market. It also denotes a lack of sufficient funds to purchase food.[1]  The global predicament of the COVID-19 epidemic has put enormous strain on the world’s food and health systems. The situation of Lockdowns and restrictions on movement create a significant impact on local, national, and international markets, resulting in a reduction in global economic activity. The issue is considerably worse in developing nations and countries with poor socioeconomic growth, aggravating already vulnerable agri-food systems and, as a result, people’s livelihoods. The worldwide epidemic has wreaked havoc on the economy, and the estimated number of individuals facing acute food insecurity has risen dramatically.

The COVID-19 pandemic reached Pakistan at a time when people of this country had been grappling with various other crises such as the war on terror, military operations in the residential areas, prolonged drought, devastating floods, and earthquakes that destroyed infrastructure and crops, spiraling economic losses, persistently widespread poverty, and most recently the Covid19 pandemic.[2] Pakistan’s economy is being hit hard by the twin shocks of Covid-19.

The Covid-19 pandemic is causing a major humanitarian crisis, owing to the population of Pakistan is facing the threat of malnutrition and food insecurity.Pakistan’s present food security situation is extremely concerning because the most imperative task at this time is to develop a comprehensive strategy for strengthening Pakistan’s economic, food, and health systems to prevent future epidemics from escalating into full-fledged social and economic catastrophes. As a result, the current study focuses on the food security problems that Pakistan and other developing and resource-poor nations confront in the COVID-19 pandemic period. Furthermore, the present situation gives a summary of the implemented and planned reaction plans targeted at food security and nutrition, and livelihood protection for demographic groups.

Determinants/Components of Food Insecurity

The COVID 19  pandemic is affecting all four pillars of food security.

  • Food Availability
  • Food Supply
  • Food Utilization
  • Food Stability

Food Availability

COVID-19 has the most immediate and significant influence on food availability, while other factors such as interruptions in supply, shifts in consumer demand toward less nutritious meals, and food price fluctuations all have an impact. Government attempts to control the virus that leads to decreasing food output have severely affected agri-food supply networks.[3]

Food Supply

The national lockdown in Pakistan has significantly disrupted many non-agricultural economic operations, ultimately jeopardizing food supply networks. Farmers, merchants, and purchasers are all affected by the supply chain, as are labor-intensive food manufacturers. Due to employees who tested positive for COVID-19, the manufacturing process at several facilities was reduced, stopped, or partially interrupted.

Food Consumption/Utilization

COVID-19 hurts market demand and puts unforeseen pressure on the food chain. the demand for food by raising unemployment rates and lowering average consumer spending power. Daily wage employees are particularly vulnerable to job loss owing to government limitations, whilst farmers eventually lose their major sources of income due to the drop in demand, particularly in Pakistan.

Food Stability

Food stability can only be accomplished when individuals have consistent and permanent access to adequate food to meet their nutritional needs, without risk of losing access due to economic changes, natural calamities, or cyclical swings. The demand for and supply of food is inextricably connected to achieving food stability or security. Because every location has various cultural, socioeconomic, and demographic features, the element that affects this may vary from place to place.

COVID- 19 Pandemic and Pakistan

COVID-19 has spread throughout Pakistan, as it has in many other nations throughout the world. The situation with the COVID-19 epidemic is deteriorating in Pakistan, as it is in other nations, and the pandemic has struck at a time when the country is undergoing poor economic development and rising inflation. According to Pakistan’s Planning Commission’s “Vision 2030, “About half of the country’s population suffers from serious to moderate malnutrition, with children, women, and the senior, who are among the poorest, is perhaps the most susceptible.Because of the ephemeral nature of the present epidemic, Pakistan’s community is already food insecure, and the number of food-insecure individuals will surge in 2021.[4]

 If the COVID-19 emergency is stretched beyond a certain point in Pakistan, food security would become the second most critical matter after health. The consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak on subsistence, food security, the agricultural supply chain, food commodity pricing, market circumstances, and management methods, as well as appropriate measures for reducing the pandemic’s impacts on food insecure populations. According to the data, over 36.43 million people are incredibly susceptible to food insecurity as a result of both natural and anthropogenic disasters, including the current pandemic.[5] Consequently, lockdowns are expected, and the situation is expected to worsen if the epidemic remains untreated.

Relying on these coordinated estimations, urgent action strategy for the population with severe livelihood requirements is advised, including the provision of lifesaving food, and non-food production support in a highly targeted way, therefore preventing a full-scale humanitarian emergency. The aforementioned geographical locations significantly hit by the COVID- 19 shocks are present in the majority of these extremely vulnerable populations.

Policy Recommendations

  • Short Term Measures
  • Govermnet should minimizethe  institutional overlaps in the COVID-19 National Action Plan by clearly identifying the responsibilities and duties of federal, provincial, and local governments.
  • Food insecurity is more common in struggling families; therefore the government and other stakeholders should give greater financial support to poor families and  make it possible to provide food accessibility at a lower cost to empower people.
  • To Encourage public credibility in the COVID-19 response by engaging with local authorities, learn from their expertise, and assisting them in strengthening public participation.
  • Provide reliable, responsible, and responsive platforms/mechanisms for public to share their opinions and concerns in order to empower them and assure their involvement.
  • Medium & Long Term Measures
  • Pakistan’s food situation in the country is fragile, and the government should take many legislative initiatives and analytical work to reduce food insecurity.
  • It is the duty of government to guarantee the security of affected citizens by strengthen local networks (e.g., local administrations, CSOs, media platforms, etc.).
  • Smart lockdown should be used to safeguard people’s income-generating activities by guaranteeing a continuous economic flow (smart lockdown means if the area has higher confirmed cases of the COVID-19 pandemic disease, that area should be under lockdown, but the areas with a low positivity rate would not be imposed with a lockdown).
  • There is a need to expand food assistance programs as well as provide resources to overcome obstacles to food available today and in the future throughout outbreak
  • Ensure that local authorities have the capability and capabilities to employ digital technology to gather, produce, preserve, and utilise data on residents.


The COVID-19 epidemic has had a major detrimental effect on the people enduring food insecurity. The pandemic’s effects are mostly due to government-imposed lockdowns and movement limitations, as well as the repercussions of lost wages and diminished asset value on food security. Food insecurity was particularly prevalent in the household with several members of the family, those who stayed in quarantine, and low-income families. Food insecurity is shown to be less among households that received monetary assistance or aid from the governments or charity organizations than that of other counterparts. During the COVID-19 epidemic, financial assistance and aid assisted people to improve their food security. Condition.

Way Forward

The COVID-19 outbreak is a coercive wake-up call that uncovered the fleeting nature of our procession on food security and nutrition. However, it has given us the chance to rethink how we address the primary causes of food insecurity and redirect our attempts to ensure progress. Pakistan needs comprehensive healthcare, humanitarian, and socioeconomic approach to COVID19 in an attempt to uphold lives. The nexus of international humanitarian activities has never been more important, and the need for cooperation and integration has never been greater. UN agencies, international financial institutions, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), civil society organisations (CSOs), the corporate sector, academia, and the media all have a role to play in boosting response activities and safeguarding people’s livelihoods.

The first step is the COVID-19 socioeconomic structure and its directives must be included in Pakistan’s response policies and tactics, including the COVID-19 National Action Plan, province emergency preparedness, and provincial and federal allocations for FY 2020-21. This necessitates national and subnational lobbying and policy involvement to guarantee that the new framework guidelines are approved and executed.

Second, technical, legal, and operational assistance will be required to assess the changing circumstances, fine-tune reaction strategies, and enhance their deployment. To get this help, the state should form COVID Response Committees with funders and development agencies to guarantee a well-coordinated, coherent response.

Third, given the lack of good, disaggregated socioeconomic data, certain recommendations may be hard to complete. It may be difficult to pinpoint and reach specific recipients as a result of this. As a result, community-based organisations, local governments, and civil society organisations (CSOs) should be mobilized to discover, map, and register beneficiaries, particularly the most vulnerable, so that recovery and rescue programs may reach immediately.

Finally, a thorough examination of COVID-19’s medium and long-term effects is required. The government should work with public sector policy and research institutions, as well as think tanks, academicians, and research centers, to conduct extensive analysis on the pandemic’s consequences on vulnerable areas, groups, families, and individuals.

This study should be utilized to help government response plans and initiatives become more focused. It is critical to note that millions of citizens were already food insecure before the epidemic hit. We might experience a worldwide food catastrophe if immediate thinking is not done, impacting people in all walks of life. Such a major food upheaval, both in terms of intensity and composition, could have unexpected repercussions that we are not prepared to deal with it.

[1]  Tandon PN. COVID-19: Impact on health of people & wealth of nations. Indian J Med Res. 2020 Feb & Mar;151(2 & 3):121-123. doi: 10.4103/ijmr.IJMR_664_20. PMID: 32202260; PMCID: PMC7357406.

[2] Wazir, M. A. (2020). Immediate socio-economic response to COVID-19 in Pakistan. United Nations Population Fund (Pakistan). Technical Report, May 2020. https://doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.22523.13602

[3]  Waris, A., Atta, U. K., Ali, M., Asmat, A., & Baset, A. (2020). COVID-19 outbreak: Current scenario of Pakistan. New Microbes and New Infections, 35, 100681. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nmni.2020.100681

[4] Akhtar, N. (2020). COVID-19 in Pakistan: Current scenario and future perspective. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Investigations, 11(4), em00753. https://doi.org/10.29333/jcei/8354

[5] Mamun, M. A., & Ullah, I. (2020). COVID-19 suicides in Pakistan, dying off not COVID-19 fear but poverty? The forthcoming economic challenges for a developing country. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 87, 163– 166. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbi.2020.05.028

Sara Khatoon
Sara Khatoon
MS International Relations COMSATS University Islamabad, currently working at Eurasian Century Institute Islamabad as a research intern.