Emergency Operation EMOP -10768.0: Food assistance for the vulnerable populations affected by the high food prices in Pakistan

Originally published


Duration: 1 October 2008 to 30 September 2009 (12 months)

Number of beneficiaries: 3,113,000

WFP food tonnage: 86,295 mt

WFP food cost: US$44.9 million

Total cost to WFP: US$71.1 million


Pakistan is suffering significant negative effects from rising food and fuel prices. The Government of Pakistan is urgently seeking measures to stabilize the food security situation in the country. A June 2008 United Nations Inter-Agency Assessment has found that:

- Food security in Pakistan has drastically worsened. Prices have increased, incomes have not kept pace; poor households now spend over 70 percent of their income on food and still cannot afford an adequate diet; increasingly destructive coping measures are being used such as foregoing basic health care and removing children from school; nutrition and health indicators for pregnant and lactating women and especially children are deteriorating; and national interventions to date have been insufficient to halt the negative trend.

- Rural households across the country, particularly in provinces sharing a border with Afghanistan, are the most affected. In North West Frontier Province (NWFP), for example, the severely foodinsecure population in rural areas (people who consume less than 1,700 kcal per day) has increased by 56 percent.

- The total number of households in Pakistan falling into the severely food-insecure category is estimated to be around seven million.

- The Government is attempting to rectify this situation through national safety net interventions, but significant gaps remain.

- An underlying cause of the price rises in Pakistan is the higher price obtained for Pakistani wheat in neighbouring countries such as Afghanistan. As a result, food availability and food access is particularly precarious in border areas.

- High food prices are also factor of instability, particularly in areas that are facing multiple problems such as floods and hosting hundreds of thousands of internally-displaced people. There is little prospect that the food price situation in Pakistan will improve in the short term. Consequently, an increasing share of wheat (the national staple) will need to be imported and the fuel price-induced increase in the cost of production will exert strong upward pressure on domestic wheat prices. Additionally, some border provinces will continue to be exposed to demand from neighbouring countries with significantly higher price levels.

Without emergency food assistance this situation will continue to worsen. WFP's assistance is aimed at reducing the gap between the need and what the Government and others can provide, by reaching half-a-million households through schools and food-for-work activities in 20 most food-insecure districts in NWFP, Balochistan and in some arid zones of the Sindh province. The intervention is based on the findings and recommendations of the WFP-led inter-agency assessment of June 2008. This assessment had been requested by the Government and involved multi-sector expertise from the following United Nations agencies: FAO, UNDP, UNESCO, UNICEF, WHO, WFP.

WFP assistance is consistent with a concerted and coordinated United Nations Country Team response as part of the Secretary-General's Comprehensive Framework for Action (CFA). It is coordinated with, and complements, government national safety net interventions and known bilateral assistance. The planned assistance meets WFP's Strategic Objectives (SOs) of "saving lives and livelihoods in emergencies" (SO1), "prevention of acute hunger" (SO2), and "restoration of lives and livelihoods" (SO3). This EMOP will contribute to Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 1, "eradicate extreme poverty and hunger", MDG2 "achieve universal education", MDG4 "reduce child mortality", MDG5 "improve maternal health" and MDG7 "ensure environmental sustainability". Where appropriate, WFP actions in Pakistan and Afghanistan will be coordinated.

As for the exit strategy, since food prices are likely to remain high in the short term, those households that have not managed to adapt to the food price shock at the end of this EMOP may be included as beneficiaries in the Government's cash transfer safety net scheme that is expected to have gained in momentum and coverage by then. Boys and girls in primary schools could be included in the Government's National School Feeding Programme (NSFP) that is expected to be launched shortly or in WFP's on-going school feeding operation within the framework of the "One UN" pilot programme. Only if on-going monitoring and assessment should indicate a continuing food crisis and major gaps in the national capacity to respond would WFP need to consider extending the relief intervention.