Pakistan

Pakistan has fifth highest number of hungry people

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ISLAMABAD, Oct 21: Poor women farmers around the country have demanded legislation to secure their right to land and control over food resources, pointing out that Pakistan has the fifth highest number of hungry people in the world with almost a quarter of the population suffering from hunger.

They are joining forces with women from all over the world to call for legislation and policy making to secure their access, control and ownership of land.

With new figures confirming that the number of people living in hunger in the world has soared to almost one billion as a result of the food crisis and with the world's leaders failing to take action to end the crisis at recent United Nations and World Bank summits, women farmers are themselves taking action to propose the solutions to help them end hunger.

According to a press release issued here, ActionAid's Hunger Free campaign is calling for decisive action by the government to end the food crisis by giving small-scale women farmers the right to own their land and give support in boosting their production through credit to purchase seeds, fertilizer and other agricultural inputs.

Bhagi, 46, from Johi in Sindh has joined the campaign and is travelling in the charter journey. Having previously made a healthy living from growing and selling sugarcane and wheat to provide for her eight children, she was last year abandoned by her husband who sold their land, kept all the proceeds and left her to support her children with no home and no source of income. Bhagi said: "Women are made powerless.

The law should say that I have a right to land in my name. I shouldn't be deprived of what I've contributed to but my husband has abandoned me and left me with nothing. I am now left with no place to live or grow food."

Aqsa Khan, ActionAid Pakistan's head of women's rights, said: "There is no quick fix to ending hunger but there is a long-term solution. Women's rights are the answer. In poor countries including Pakistan, it's women who grow most of the food and feed their families. But their rights to access and control the means to do so are not provided and in some cases these rights are violated outright. States can be more food secure by implementing and upholding new laws that give women more secure rights to own, or access land in their own right as citizens.

Despite producing 60-80 per cent of the food in developing countries, women own only 1 per cent of the land. Women are the worst affected by the food crisis. Even before the current crisis, women made up 60 per cent of the world's chronically hungry people.

Hunger Free women campaign has been launched in 16 countries in Africa and Asia to press governments to make laws to provide and protect women's right to land. In Pakistan, hundreds of poor women farmers are participating in the charter journeys to convey their demands to the policy makers from union councils and districts to the provincial and national levels.

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