UAE food parcels for needy Pakistani families
ABU DHABI // Twenty thousand needy families in a famine-stricken district of Pakistan will eat for a month thanks to emergency food aid from the UAE.
The 1,500 tonnes of infant formula, flour, rice, sugar, salt, lentils, cooking oil and tea is being sent to Tharparkar in the south-east Sindh province.
Famine threatens nearly 1.2 million people in the region and 67 children have died from malnutrition, poor health care and cold.
“In any emergency or disaster … the primary objective is saving lives,” said Abdallah Al Wardat, director of the United Nations World Food Programme in the UAE. “Food comes immediately as a priority.
“Such initiatives are very important because, first of all, they protect the people who look for food and shelter.
“It comes at a critical time because food distribution helps people to avoid coping mechanisms such as selling their assets, or child labour to buy food. It helps them to maintain their dignity so that, later on, they can look to protect their assets and cope with and survive these emergencies.”
The UAE Pakistan Assistance Programme is coordinating the food aid with the World Health Organisation and Pakistan’s government and army.
“The processing of 1,500 tonnes of food has been started according to the latest specifications and quality control in terms of nutritional and health value,” it said. “The total weight of each food basket will be 75 kilograms and it will be sufficient for a whole month.”
“It’s a wonderful initiative,” said George Itty, chief executive of Nahtam, an humanitarian organisation in Abu Dhabi. “A country like Pakistan has a lot of internal problems and the government doesn’t have sufficient funds to take care of them, so funding programmes are vital and of crucial importance.
“Pakistan is huge and a lot of people have a poor financial situation so they need such help.”
He said the UAE had done well in terms of launching such initiatives.
“The first thing we think about here is food wastage,” he said. “But the other side of it is that we have a culture that is caring for the people and the UAE hospitality really shows, it’s amazing.”
But more needs to be done, experts said, as food is only part of the problem.
“The debate over food aid has moved on,” said Jody Harris, a research analyst in poverty, health and nutrition at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington. “If there are functioning markets in a country, agencies are now investigating whether the provision of food vouchers or even cash might be a better option than flooding the market with imported grain.”
She said malnourished children did not just need food to fill their stomachs, although that was part of the puzzle.
“They also need good health services and hygiene practices to avoid the diarrhoeal disease that stops them absorbing nutrients,” she said. “And they need good care and feeding practices, particularly a longer duration of breastfeeding and, after six months of age, a varied diet of nutritious foods.”
Updated: March 12, 2014 04:00 AM