Food Coalition

Humanitarian response Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) - Pakistan

Pakistan is highly exposed to natural hazards and shocks, including drought. In 2018-2019, severe drought conditions prevailed in 18 districts of Balochistan and eight districts of Sindh, rendering around 5 million people in need of immediate food security and livelihood assistance. Since March 2019, a desert locust outbreak has also affected around 46 districts across four provinces of Pakistan. These issues make a large proportion of the population vulnerable to persistent and chronic food insecurity.

The COVID-19 pandemic is further exacerbating poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition, increasing humanitarian needs in disaster prone areas of Pakistan. The average number of daily new cases has been rising sharply since the beginning of June.

On 18 June 2020, the Government imposed a “smart lockdown” in several cities to curb the spike in cases. The effects of urgent and essential COVID-19 containment measures are having repercussions on the country’s already fragile employment situation and on livelihoods.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme have jointly conducted food security and nutrition analyses in the wake of COVID-19, to assess its impact on people’s livelihoods and coping mechanisms, agricultural supply chains, market situations and food prices. The most vulnerable groups susceptible to COVID-19 shocks include daily wage labourers (22 percent of all wage earners), internally displaced persons and Temporarily Displaced Persons, refugees, returnees, low income urban households, market-dependent rural households, elderly people, those already suffering from medical conditions, children and female-headed poor households.

Overall, 2020 wheat production is expected to remain close to the five-year average. However, approximately 70 percent of the wheat harvest depends on traditional farm labourers, and COVID-19 containment measures have significantly hindered their ability to move and work during harvest, resulting in production losses. In addition, food supply chains are under stress, with farmers facing lack of inputs (including a shortage of certified seeds and fertilizers), difficulties in obtaining agricultural machinery, availability of jute bags for storage and transport, lack of access to extension services and disruptions in distribution. The ability of markets to supply a diverse range of staples, fruit and vegetables will also vary greatly throughout the country. Markets in remote and border areas are already beginning to show signs of stress. These factors could reduce access to food for the most vulnerable households.

Livestock owners have also been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Livestock markets were closed until mid-April and the buying/selling of livestock was at a standstill. Additionally, farmers’ ability to access animal health services was hampered due to temporary closures of government and private sector extension services. Currently, access to fodder, feed and health services is improving. However, the effects of COVID-19-related transportation restrictions is adversely impacting livestock products and the processing industry, specifically for milk and meat products, which could have detrimental repercussions on small businesses engaged in milk and meat supply chains.

The Government of Pakistan has announced a fiscal stimulus package of PKR 1.2 trillion (around USD 7.2 billion) as part of its immediate response to COVID-19. Fiscal measures by provincial governments include expanding the Ehsaas emergency programme’s outreach from 5.2 million to 12 million households, providing a cash grant to 3 million daily wage labourers in the formal sector and providing food assistance to poor families at subsidized rates from utility stores.

The Benazir Income Support Programme is supporting 3 million households and the Government has enhanced their monthly stipend from PKR 2 000 (around USD 13) to PKR 3 000 (around USD 20).

Through the State Bank of Pakistan, the Federal Government has adopted measures to safeguard financial stability, expanded refinancing schemes, announced new facilities to support employment, manufacturing, hospitals and medical centres, and relaxed the conditions of export refinancing and longterm financing schemes.

Priority Areas of work: Global Humanitarian Response Plan
SDG: 1. No Poverty, 2. Zero Hunger, 5. Gender Equality, 16. Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
Level: Country
Country: Pakistan
Budget: USD 24 million

Action Sheet:  PAK_CB0224EN.pdf

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